ID Theft on a Massive Scale

Identity Theft Protection

The government will start notifying consumers who had their identities compromised, as early as Wednesday. Eleven people are under indictment after a federal crackdown. You'll be shocked at how easily the thieves got access to hundreds of millions of dollars.

They are among the best know names in American retail: Barnes and Noble, TJ Maxx, and Sports Authority. They are also just of some of the victims of a massive identity theft ring, in which tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers were compromised.

"This is the single largest and most complex identify theft case ever charged in this country," said U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

The justice department said the scheme involved "war driving", hacking into the wireless networks of major retailers. "War driving is simply driving around with a car, with a laptop computer, looking for accessible wireless computer networks," said U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan.

Once the hackers got into the company's system, they would install software capturing credit and debit card numbers and other account information. Eleven people, including a secret service informant, have been indicted.

"It is remarkable in fact that such large well established corporations could be so vulnerable basically to a small group of criminals," said Marc Rotenberg with the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The hackers wound up creating duplicate cards or selling some of the information to other criminals in the U.S. or Eastern Europe.

"A lot of companies don't have competent people that understand data security," said Philip Zimmermann. Philip Zimmermann is the creator of pretty good privacy, an email encryption software package. "There is no such thing as 100% security but that doesn't mean we should throw up our hands and say 'what's the use?' we can get a long way by applying appropriate technologies."

Other retailers compromised include Boston Market, Office Max, Forever 21 and DSW, Discount Shoe Warehouse.

If you are a victim of identity theft, go to and at the top of the homepage, search for the words "identity theft protection" for some tips on how to repair the damage.


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