- New York Times Aug 5, 2008 "Federal prosecutors have charged 11 people with stealing more than 41 million credit and debit card numbers, cracking what officials said on Tuesday appeared to be the largest hacking and identity theft ring ever exposed."
There seems to be a disparity between the estimated 90+ million records reported stolen in the case originally and the 41 million records these 11 are being charged with. Perhaps there were other perpetrators still on the loose, or possibly the original estimates were way off. Only time will tell.
Some facts bear noting:
- These breaches were discovered in 2006.
- The perpetrators are from several countries.
- The data they accessed has been re-aggregated and sold many times all over the world.
Did anyone see this one by E. Scott Reckard and Joseph Menn, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers August 2, 2008?
"The FBI on Friday arrested a former Countrywide Financial Corp. employee and another man in an alleged scheme to steal and sell sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, of as many as 2 million mortgage applicants.The breach in security, which occurred over a two-year period though July, was one of the largest in years, experts said."
Look at the Dataloss link on this page for a more comprehensive list of breaches of data.
No top down fix is going to stop the intentional theft of valuable data. Companies and governments cannot protect you from identity theft. The public needs to be fully aware that the only way to protect each individual is to obtain the services of a reputable company to provide them with an early warning of the illicit use of their data, not only for outright financial theft but the use of personally identifiable information to obtain employment, health insurance, file false medical claims, obtain passports, create new identities for a variety of reasons, and much more. This company must also provide professional representation and restoration services.
I can tell you from personal experience that with identity theft you must prove yourself innocent beyond a doubt. That can take years. No one wants to endure that mentally and physically draining nightmare on their own. By being pro-active and having such a service in place before the fact can save inestimable time, money, and anguish. Your states' Attorney General cannot help you. In most states the AGs office is inundated with ID theft claims that taken one at a time would simply overwhelm their offices' ability to react. Local authorities are equally unable to help. It is up to each and every one of us to take the pro-active steps on our own. Remember "cheap insurance" in a previous post in this column? This is a classic example. Look at the worst case. Remember, it is possible no matter how remote you feel it might be to you. Ask your employer if they offer identity theft services as a benefit. Seek everything you can find on the subject before signing on to yearly contracts. Most of the services available are very ineffective and only address a small segment of ID theft, and can tie you into contracts.
I firmly believe that the services that I represent are by far the best and most comprehensive available in the world. I represent them because they are good. There is no hidden language, no offer of reimbursement insurance, no claims that they can prevent ID theft, only the reputation of the worlds' foremost forensic accounting and fraud risk management company. They promise only one thing, to fully represent you and take you through the steps of restoration for all forms of identity theft. As a victim of identity theft I can tell you without reservation that no other company could have helped me with my case. I only wish it had been available then.
I urge everyone reading this column to find a service that is real and solid, and will truly help you in the event this happens to you. Look at them all of you wish, but please read between the lines of their claims before you sign.