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
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
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