ORDINARY CASE OF IDENTITY THEFT
Largest in U.S.
It 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
It's also a cautionary
tale for you--the consumer.
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
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