Monday, April 03, 2006

94,000 Get Identity Theft Warning Letters in Los Angeles

94,000-Get-Identity-Theft-Warning-Letters-in-Los-Angeles -audio post - click to play

In what may only be the beginning of what
could become ultimately
a much larger
number, Los Angeles County officials sent
94,000
(enough to fill up two baseball stadiums)
citizens identity
theft warning letters.


The disclosure letters were a follow up to the January
exposure by the Department of Social Services (DPSS)
of the client's highly sensitive personal information:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Social Security Numbers (SSN)
  • Medical information

The confidential consumer information was exposed to identity
theft in January after multiple boxes of un-shredded
documents
were left outside a DPSS office in a
major park located within
Los Angeles.

The reason we suspect you may not have heard the last of this
incident is in the original story there were several shocking
facts uncovered:

After a citizen reported the sensitive documents were stacked
outside, it took 1 month before the paper was actually
removed
for a professional shredding and destruction company.

Plus, the company which held the contract for the records
destruction, indicated they actually do not shred
the documents
but rather ship them to China
for recycling.


So, imagine your most sensitive personally identifying information
falling into the hands of potential identity thieves located in a
foreign country - well beyond the reach of local enforcement
and U.S. laws.

The bottom line here, 94,000 is a minimal number of consumers
disclosed due to costs. Remember, Choicepoint initially only disclosed
a small number of consumers effected by their security breach, but
was later forced to update that figure ultimately by 100,000.

While organizations such as the DPSS or Choicepoint were motivated
by limiting exposure to wholesale embarrassment and public ridicule,
you the consumer ultimately bears the cost of identity theft.

With quality, fake identification, available with the data exposed
by DPSS, identity thieves will gladly pay $100 or
more per name
for this type of information.

So, our tip for today, is to limit the amount of financial
damage an identity thief can cause with the type of personal
information exposed by organizations such as the DPSS.
Check out very carefully your credit report and public
records snapshot, then enroll in automatic credit monitoring.

Tell a friend about this if they live or work in L.A. county as the
DPSS files were originally believed to have covered over 2 million
residents - not 84,000.

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