Even the best computer hackers get caught eventually

Online account hackers are everywhere, and no one can guess how many are undetected; scammers often get away with what usually amounts to petty larceny. However some do get caught, like the young Middlesbrough man Harus Hussain, an amateur who hacked into the Paypal accounts of at least two eBay shoppers.

In Teesside Crown Court last week, Hussain admitted to using the victims’ accounts to pay for items sold on eBay, a £288 iPad and a £165 Nintendo games console. Payment was sent from the hacked accounts and Hussain picked up the merchandise in person, an indiscretion that confirmed his guilt when he was later identified by the sellers in a police line-up.

Prior to that, however, the theft was unnoticed until the Paypal customers reported the charges to be unauthorized, and Paypal notified the sellers that payment had been withheld. By then of course the merchandise was ‘sold’ – picked up by Hussain before the charges were processed and noted by the injured parties.

As part of Hussain’s sentence, he’ll have to repay the money, and the judge also gave him a four-month jail term, suspended for a year, plus 150 hours of unpaid community service work. Judge Peter Bowers called the 22-year-old “an important cog” in the scam, though his defence council argued that Hussain was hardly a master criminal, and didn’t actually take the money from those hacked accounts – he was ‘just a courier’ who picked up the merchandise.

That particular defense didn’t hold up too well, since the phone used to call the sellers was found at Hussain’s residence. However, he claimed that though he was aware that something fraudulent was going on when he went to get the merchandise, other confederates managed the actual theft. Prosecutor Joleyn Perks told the Crown Court that Hussain was one of several individuals in the Tees Valley area who had been perpetrating the eBay/Paypal fraud.