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August 17, 2009

BREAKING NEWS - Largest Identity Theft case ever

What is being billed as the largest identity theft case ever came to light today. Here's the article from Fox News:

"Albert Gonzalez of Miami, 28, is charged with acting with two unnamed conspirators to locate large corporations and steal vital account information in a crime that the Department of Justice calls 'the single largest hacking and identity theft case ever prosecuted.'

Authorities say more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen in a corporate data breach involving three different corporations and two individuals. The card numbers, along with additional account information, were allegedly stolen from Princeton-based Heartland
Payment Systems; 7-Eleven Inc., a Texas-based convenience store chain and Hannaford Brothers Company, a Maine-based supermarket chain.

The indictment also mentions two other unidentified corporate victims as being hacked by the co-conspirators.

According to the Justice Department, the suspects used a sophisticated hacking technique called an 'SQL injection attack,' which 'seeks to exploit computer networks by finding a way around the network's firewall to steal credit card and debit information.'"

Once again, the media gets "identity theft" confused with "account takeover". If, like this article says, the "identity thieves" were only able to steal credit card numbers and debit card numbers, then the only thing they can do is access (or sell access to) the different accounts. Identity theft is committed when an identity thief uses the personal information of another to, for instance, open a new account. Simply taking over an account already in existence is not identity theft but is instead an account takeover. Account takeovers happen a lot more than identity theft. In fact, I am even a victim of an account takeover. The good thing is that credit card companies are much better about correcting account takeovers than they are about correcting the problems caused by identity theft. In fact, as soon as I alerted Discover that someone had made charges on my account, they removed the charges, changed the account number and issued me a new card. Pretty painless.

Identity theft, on the other hand, is anything but painless. Identity theft victims go through feelings of lost control, of being trapped, thoughts that no one is listening or willing to believe them. Suddenly bankers that they have spent years building a relationship with believe what they read on the credit report over the history they have with customer. And banks, credit card companies and credit bureaus are terrible about correcting the problems caused by identity theft. You are guilty until proven innocent and the person deciding your innocence is not a jury of your peers but the companies that have a reason not to believe you, since you are the only person that they could possibly collect from (identity thieves are notoriously hard to collect from).

Hopefully, the news is right about their facts and not what they are calling the crime and it really is just account takeovers. However, if it is really the "largest identity theft ever prosecuted", then services like mine are going to be in high demand. Any victims of this identity theft that read this post, please contact me when (not if) you need help.

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