I don't think there is a shift in most people's thinking about hacking. I'm definitely not saying hacking is about stealing, but in most people's eyes it is about criminality and that has in no small way been helped by the early phreakers stealing services. White hat, black hat, grey hat is all the same to the genral populus. A white hat may try to set themselves apart but it doesn't make much difference when people hear 'hacker' associated with their psn details going missing or their credit card being skimmed or <insert tech related scare monger news story here>. People involved in the 'scene' will realise the difference, the majority wont care. Remember what hacking meant in the 50's and 60's MIT SAIL days, and its difficult not to argue the thinking has gradually gone more towards a definition of stealing and other naughtyness than its original meaning of education and freedom.
Taking your scanning analogy as a starting point, someone who crowbars the coin hopper on a payphone and steals the money is also a phreaker: there in lies the problem. If you want to label yourself in a way then expect the whole definition to apply even if the definition is different to what you think it should be, or what it originally was.
I used to refer to myself as a hacker, then I grew up, got a job and a family and understood the connotations behind the word are not helpful to my life. Im an engineer now, which is easier for my nan to understand and you will never hear about engineers creating a new bank information syphoning trojan. I cant be bothered correcting people's misunderstanding and besides I'd rather talk to people on the appropriate level for the conversation and audience: In a job interview Im an engineer (that may hack things together in the course of my work), in a LUG meet I might use the word hacker without it being misinterpretted.
Which leads to the point that that one of the founders of phreaking was sentenced for fraudulently making calls.
Who? Or are you referring to old news?
Im referring to cptn crunch.