Identity Theft Reaches Epidemic Proportions

2005 has seen the problem of identity theft soar to record proportions. Several recent security breaches have resulted in personal information of almost 2,000,000 individuals being lost or stolen.

In March, the information broker, LexisNexis, permitted unauthorized individuals to access personal data files of as many as 310,000 people. Just prior to that, a security breach at ChoicePoint Inc., allowed a con artist to gain access to the personal data of approximately 145,000 people nationwide.

In April, British financial giant HSBC PLC notified at least 180,000 people of a scam involving the theft of credit card information regarding General Motors-branded MasterCards used to make purchases at Polo Ralph Lauren. At the end of February, Bank of America lost backup tapes containing records of the personal financial information of government employees.

In April, the University of California, Berkeley, disclosed that a laptop computer containing the names and Social Security numbers of nearly 100,000 people had been stolen. Just prior to that, Northwestern University reported the possible theft of the personal information of more than 21,000 students, faculty and alumni. In April, a New Jersey man was accused of conducting a massive scheme to steal 500,000 bank accounts and personal information and sell it to bill collectors. His accomplices included branch managers and employees from some of New Jersey’s largest biggest banks, including Bank of America, Wachovia and Commerce Bank.

Finally, just this month, Time Warner Inc. reported a container of computer tapes containing information on 600,000 current and former employees had been lost on the way to a data storage facility. The Washington Post now reports that federal investigators have seized computers and other evidence from a number of individuals believed to have been involved in the data thefts at LexisNexis and from the cell phone of hotel heiress Paris Hilton.

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