A Nottingham schoolgirl managed to turn the tables on a cracker who'd pinched her father's credit card details by tricking him into revealing his identity online.
This week Nottinghamshire police praised Danielle Athi for helping them track down a teenager computer criminal who'd plundered an estimated £2,000 through Internet-related credit card fraud.
The Nottingham Evening Post reports that police had been searching for months to identify Gafferboy, whose stock in trade was breaking into computers and stealing confidential details using a Trojan horse virus. Through Danielle's actions Gafferboy has been identified a teenage cracker, Andrew Edgar, who was sentenced to a community service order by a Scottish court earlier this week.
The story begins back in August 2000 when Edgar [AKA Gafferboy] first made contact with Danielle, then only 12, in an Internet chat room. The pair exchanged emails before Gafferboy sent young Danielle a "photo" of himself by email.
In fact the email contained a Trojan horse virus, which compromised the Athi family's home computer.
A month later, Danielle's father Ravi was shocked to receive a bank statement containing a number of fraudulent transactions.
Det Sgt Harry Parsonage, of the Notts Police hi-tech crime unit, told the Nottingham Evening Post: "He [Edgar] searched through the computer and found Mr Athi's credit card details and used them to make 15 different transactions, mainly in the US."
Police were frustrated in their investigation by "elaborate steps" taken by the cracker to conceal his identity and cover his tracks.
Police asked the Athi family to get back in touch if Gafferboy tried to contact them again.
Some hope, you might have thought.
But in 2001 Gafferboy began flirting with Danielle again.
Wise to his tricks, this time, she turned the tables on the youth by setting him a trap. We'll let the Nottingham Evening Post pick up the story:
The West Bridgford schoolgirl sent him a quiz - much like those that appear in any teen magazine - saying she wanted to get to know him better.
Her questions included asking him his favourite colour, his favourite pop group... and then "what's your name?".
When 15-year-old Edgar replied back with a full list of answers - even volunteering his mobile phone number - little did he suspect the game would soon be up.
It was a case of the conned conning the conman.
"I really wanted to get him for what he had done," said Danielle, now 15, told the paper.
"I wanted to find out his name so I thought of a star sign quiz as an excuse," she said.
"I told him I wanted to see if we matched up. I was laughing when he e-mailed me back with all his details. He gave his name, address and even his mobile phone, which I had not asked for."
Danielle passed on this information to the police who were able to track him down to Moffat, near Dumfries in Scotland, through the email address he used to flirt with the young Nottingham girl.
Det Sgt Parsonage praised Danielle for helping them track down Edgar's identity.
Quite why Notts police weren't able to track Edgar down in the first place isn't explained in the article, which also omits mention of some of the other dangers that arise for teenager girls in using chat rooms.
Leaving that to one side, the Athis family believe Edgar was duped because he forgot who his previous victims were.
Father-of-four Mr Athi, a computer engineer from the West Bridgford area of Nottingham, said: "Edgar lived in two worlds. In one he was this devious hacker stealing from people. And in the other he was living his normal childhood meeting people on the Internet.
"He had been in touch with so many people that he forgot who he had double-crossed.
"I couldn't believe he was only 15 at the time. When you're talking about stealing thousands of pounds you imagine some experienced criminal, not a child."
Bang to rights
Edgar was arrested in June 2001, and his computer (which provided evidence of his crimes) seized.
Using stolen credit card information, Edgar had set up a cracker Website (hackersonline.net, since taken down) containing tips for fellow crims and stolen details of 60 credit card accounts.
At Dumfries Sheriff's Court, this Tuesday Edgar pleaded guilty to seven charges of obtaining Internet services worth nearly £2,000 through credit card fraud. Three of the charges relate to fraudulent transactions of £710 ran up on Ravi Athi's credit card account.
The court accepted Edgar's not guilty plea to 35 Computer Misuse Act charges.
Sheriff Kenneth Barr sentenced Edgar, now 18, and a first offender, to 100 hours' community service.
Danielle, who's interesting in studying media studies (and may make a good investigative journalist, we reckon), is spending a lot less time on the family PC these days following her unfortunate experiences at the hands of Edgar.
"I don't use chat rooms anymore. I have lost interest," she told Nottingham Evening Post. ®