Justice caught up with a 21-year-old UK hacker this week as Alistair Peckover was sentenced to almost two years of jail time after being convicted of perpetrating sophisticated and lucrative online frauds.
The prosecution revealed that Peckover systematically defrauded legitimate online businesses and unsuspecting members of the public with his self-taught computer skills, amassing ill-gained assets that included a Porsche sports car, expensive watches and more than GBP 30,000 worth of gold bullion.
The UK Press Association reports that the Hailsham, Surrey resident admitted two counts of serious fraud, and that a further 50 offences were taken into consideration in his sentencing.
Described as an “obsessive loner”, Peckover used advanced computer programs, some of which he wrote himself, to breach internet security barriers, access private information and use it for illegal gain. In doing so, he targeted online betting sites and individual email accounts.
In one scam, Sussex Police said he was able to access the email account and the password of everyone that had bought an item using BT Openzone, which enables people to access the internet wirelessly. Using this pool of personal information, Peckover then searched to see which of them had a Gmail email account, then created a list of more than 500 people whose email addresses he had obtained.
Peckover then placed "filters" on all the email accounts. Any email that contained key words including "sort code", "exp" or "amazon" would be deleted from the user's inbox without them knowing. The email would be automatically forwarded to him so he could use it for his own purposes. Using a computer "fake mail" program, Peckover would take the identity of the original sender and continue correspondence with the victim.
Police said Peckover's victims stretched across the world, and with the personal information he illegally obtained, he used credit cards belonging to others to buy gifts for himself and others. He also took rent money from one victim who had been paying a landlord via bank transfer, and in another case directed money to himself that someone had put aside to buy a car.
Detectives reported that they had seized ill-gotten gains that included a Porsche, GBP40,000 in cash stuffed in two containers, a Breitling and Rolex watch, six computers, a Nintendo Wii, a Pioneer car stereo and gold bullion valued at GBP 30 000. Passports in three names he used were also found.
In a further scam, Peckover stole the identities of unsuspecting people in order to open gambling accounts with Ladbrokes and SkyBet.
He had already received a suspended prison sentence in June last year for hacking into gambling sites and making a large profit for himself. But just two months later police said he was breaking the law again, by hacking into BT Openzone and gaining details of people's email accounts and their passwords. He then used one of the identities to open a gambling account. Police said he later admitted all the offences and to cheating on several other internet gambling sites.
A police fraud unit spokesman said: "This is a classic example of a self-taught, obsessive loner with real computer skills but no concern for his impact on other people.
“Peckover used his skills to systematically defraud legitimate online businesses and unsuspecting members of the public. Computer-based crime is not victimless."
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