We Finally Came To Realize
A troubling tale via Krebs on Security
An identity theft service that sold Social Security and drivers license numbers — as well as bank account and credit card data on millions of Americans — purchased much of its data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, according to a lengthy investigation by KrebsOnSecurity.
Contacted about the reader’s claim, U.S. Info Search CEO Marc Martin said the data sold by the ID theft service was not obtained directly through his company, but rather via Court Ventures, a third-party company with which US Info Search had previously struck an information sharing agreement. Martin said that several years ago US Info Search and CourtVentures each agreed to grant the other company complete access to its stores of information on US consumers.
Founded in 2001, Court Ventures described itself as a firm that “aggregates, repackages and distributes public record data, obtained from over 1,400 state and county sources.” Cached, historic copies of courtventures.com are available through archive.org.
THE ROLE OF EXPERIAN
In March 2012, Court Ventures was purchased by Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Experian, one of the three major consumer credit bureaus. According to Martin, the proprietors of Superget.info had gained access to Experian’s databases by posing as a U.S.-based private investigator. In reality, Martin said, the individuals apparently responsible for running Superget.info were based in Vietnam.
Martin said he first learned of the ID theft service after hearing from a U.S. Secret Service agent who called and said the law enforcement agency was investigating Experian and had obtained a grand jury subpoena against the company.
While the private investigator ruse may have gotten the fraudsters past Experian and/or CourtVentures’ screening process, according to Martin there were other signs that should have alerted Experian to potential fraud associated with the account. For example, Martin said the Secret Service told him that the alleged proprietor of Superget.info had paid Experian for his monthly data access charges using wire transfers sent from Singapore.
“The issue in my mind was the fact that this went on for almost a year after Experian did their due diligence and purchased” Court Ventures, Martin said. “Why didn’t they question cash wires coming in every month? Experian portrays themselves as the databreach experts, and they sell identity theft protection services. How this could go on without them detecting it I don’t know. Our agreement with them was that our information was to be used for fraud prevention and ID verification, and was only to be sold to licensed and credentialed U.S. businesses, not to someone overseas.”
Experian declined multiple requests for an interview.
(click here to continue reading Experian Sold Consumer Data to ID Theft Service — Krebs on Security.)
so if your account was one of the unlucky ones, what was stolen?
These services specialized in selling “fullz” or “fulls,” a slang term that cybercrooks use to describe a package of personally identifiable information that typically includes the following information: an individual’s name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, place of work, duration of work, state driver’s license number, mother’s maiden name, bank account number(s), bank routing number(s), email account(s) and other account passwords. Fulls are most commonly used to take over the identity of a person in order to engage in other fraud, such as taking out loans in the victim’s name or filing fraudulent tax refund requests with the IRS.
All told, findget.me and superget.info acquired or sold fullz information on more than a half million people, the government alleges.
Why exactly do we as a society allow Experian and similar organizations collect this data in the first place? They accumulate the data, and sell it to advertisers, or to scammers, and what benefit does it bestow on us? Other than headache and grief…
especially when Experian will skip away from this investigation with nothing more than a slap on the wrist with a wet noodle…
Meanwhile, it’s not clear what — if any — trouble Experian may face as a result of its involvement in the identity theft scheme. This incident bears some resemblance to a series of breaches at ChoicePoint, a data aggregator that acted as a private intelligence service to government and industry. Beginning in 2004, ChoicePoint suffered several breaches in which personal data on American citizens was accessed by crooks who’d used previously stolen identities to create apparently legitimate businesses seeking ChoicePoint accounts. ChoicePoint was later sued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, an action that produced a $10 million settlement — the largest in the agency’s history for a violation of federal privacy law.
Experian makes about $500,000,000 in profit a year, btw.