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You May Be One of Millions Whose ID Was Stolen and Sold

Beth Braverman
You May Be One of Millions Whose ID Was Stolen and Sold

What Happened: A Vietnamese man pleaded guilty last week to a running an identity theft service in which he sold millions of Americans’ personal and financial data, stolen from a company owned by credit agency Experian, according to a blog post by security expert Brian Krebs. Hieu Minh Ngo reportedly sold data to more than 1,300 “customers” who paid close to $2 million for Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and other sensitive data. Except for testifying at a Senate hearing on the incident last December, Experian has declined to comment on the case.

Why It Matters: The number of high-profile cases of hackers and thieves getting access to sensitive consumer information has been growing in recent years. An estimated 13.1 million Americans were victims of identity fraud last year, according to the 2014 Identity Fraud Report by Javelin Strategy & Research.  That number does not include the 110 million debit and credit card records accessed during the Target data breach over the holidays.

Related: Runaway Identity Theft: Could You Be Next?

What It Means for You: Given the increase in identity theft across the board, consumers need to remain vigilant about safeguarding their own identities. While it’s impossible to completely protect identity theft—especially when a trusted company has lax security procedures—there are best practices to follow. That includes maintaining strong passwords, checking your credit reports at least once a year, and taking seriously any notification from a company that your account has been compromised. The Javelin report found that one in three customers who had received notification of a data breach had become a victim of fraud.

Experian has said that it’s going to make sure consumers who were affected by the breach “are protected,” but it hasn’t offered additional information as to whether it has offered protection of services to people who were impacted.

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