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NO ORDINARY CASE OF IDENTITY THEFT
The Largest in U.S. History

10/18/04

Uncovering Identity Theft graphicIt began with a crooked "insider" who had access to a nearly unending supply of personal consumer information.

It ended up the largest case of identity theft ever investigated and prosecuted in the U.S.--with 30,000 victims across the U.S. and Canada and millions of dollars in losses.

It's also a cautionary tale for you--the consumer.

First, the crime. The "insider" was Philip Cummings, a help desk employee with a Long Island, NY, company that provided special software to its client companies--like banks and other financial institutions--allowing them to download consumer credit reports from the three major commercial credit reporting agencies.

Cummings had access to his clients' codes and passwords, which meant he could download virtually all the consumer credit reports he wanted. And he did, after being approached by a ring of Nigerian nationals who offered to pay for copies. Even after leaving the company, Cummings continued using his inside knowledge to download and sell credit reports to this identity theft ring for another two years.

The damage. Considerable. Thousands of personal savings accounts were looted. Fake charges were racked up on credit cards. Addresses on bank accounts were changed so that new credit, check, and ATM cards were mailed directly to the thieves.

How the case was solved. Federal authorities--the FBI, with the assistance of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Secret Service--were called in to investigate when a major credit company discovered that thousands of credit reports had been downloaded without permission. Soon other companies were reporting the same thing. A review of the victim companies' 1-800 phone records led investigators to the Long Island company that employed Philip Cummings...and ultimately, to Cummings himself and his partners in crime. Last month, Cummings pled guilty in the massive scheme. Trials for his co-defendants are upcoming.

What you should know about identity theft. The FBI is committed to preventing it ... and investigating cases that do occur, in concert with our partners. And private sector companies--like the ones victimized in this case--are working to install better safeguards to protect consumer information.

But you--as consumers--can help yourselves. On Wednesday, we'll tell you what you can do to minimize the risks and where to go for help if you are victimized.

Link: DOJ press release