Ever watch the movie Gangs of New York? It is great movie by Martin Scorsese from 2003 that shows the gangs from the 1800s and how they operated. The film exhibits some violent gang members, but also showed bands of pickpockets, sneakthieves, who maliciously take wallets and jewelry without their victims feeling a thing. While pickpockets still exist on the New York City subways and streets, it is somewhat rare to find a cohesive unit running a large operation and sharing the profits as their forebears did nearly 200 years ago.

Arthur Franklin pleaded guilty in Manhattan criminal court in October to running such an operation that included 15 people in two states. On Monday, he was sentenced to 9 to 18 years. Franklin would disguise himself as a construction worker or a doctor as he watched his group steal from unsuspecting individuals. Then, he would put a 21st century twist on the art of the pickpocket.

The use of pickpockets in (Franklin's) scheme underscores the link between street criminals and cybercriminals, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement.

Franklin was always at the center of these crimes, every step of the way. He would buy the stolen property from his gang of pickpockets. Then, he would forward the data to a collection agency in Harrisburg, Pa., that would tap in credit card accounts and send the information to Franklin. Then, Franklin would forward the information to others who would pose as the victims, sometimes even wearing wigs and other disguises as they received stolen cash from banks. Franklin divvied up the money, keeping a portion for himself.

In all, the gang compromised nearly 60 accounts and caused banks to suffer losses.

There is a dramatic trend in identity theft in recent years. In an age where plastic replaces cold, hard cash it is no wonder that people are often subject to ithe crime. Federal crime data show that nearly 26 percent of individuals were subject to credit card fraud. Data also reveals that bank identity theft accounts for about 17 percent of all reported identity theft cases.

Robert Siciliano is a security expert and consultant to McAfee. He is also the CEO of the Web site IDTheftSecurity.com. Siciliano tells International Business Times there are two types of identity theft: new account fraud and account takeover.

New account is when they get your personal information, said Siciliano. Those new accounts are credit driven accounts. Identity thieves strive to get Social Security numbers in order to open up new credit cards, buy mobile phone plans, and borrow any type of loan. Then, they can open up new accounts under your name.

They use that basic information to get revolving lines of credit, he says.  Account takeover is the second type of identity theft.

Account takeover is what most people think of account identity theft, he said. This is when individuals steal a credit card or debit and run amok. They go on spending sprees using a stolen card. Siciliano says it is very difficult to protect a credit card or debit card. People will use their cards many times a day. It becomes susceptible to malevolent foes.

Although it might be obvious, it is important to cancel all missing credit cards and check bank statements.

In order to defend yourself from pickpockets and identity thieves, Siciliano says the first step is limiting what is in your wallet.

If the thought of losing your wallet would make you ill, then there is too much information being held in the wallet.

You only carry around the most essential cards you need in your wallet, he says.  Siciliano says it is important to limit the amount of personal data in your wallet. You only carry around the most essential cards you need in your wallet. In addition to that, he says he has photocopied all of his credit and debit cards that he carries with him. He does not carry any paperwork in his wallet and he does not include anything that can be decoded and implied to be a password of any kind.

Siciliano also says it best to carry a wallet in your front pocket, instead of your back, making it more difficult for a thief to steal it.

All you need is a money clip with a few cards. A wallet in your front pocket is your best bet. Following these simple tips and, of course, avoiding shady characters on the subways, will avoid worse problems if and when your identity or wallet gets stolen.

When your wallet is stolen it shouldn't be that big of a deal, if you're smart about it.