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I.D. Theft Scheme Uncovered in U.S. - 2002-11-27

U.S authorities have charged three men with orchestrating the largest identity theft scheme in U.S. history—depleting individual bank accounts, racking up newly opened credit card accounts and stealing millions of dollars from at least 30 thousand consumers.

Federal prosecutor James Comey said Monday, the men are charged with using insider information to obtain tens of thousands of credit reports and to sell those reports to criminals who then exploited that information.

“With a few key strokes, these men picked the pockets of ten of thousands of Americans and in the process, took their identities, stole their money and swiped their security.”

Authorities said 33-year-old Phillip Cummings, an employee of a New York based software company which provides banks with credit information, sold passwords and codes for downloading consumer credit reports to an unidentified person. The information was then passed on to at least 20 other people. Mr. Comey said this case is being prosecuted in New York, but the victims span the country.

“Although may of the fraudsters were here in New York supplying the wish list, the social security numbers and the names that they wanted, the credit history reports for were from folks all over the country.”

Elizabeth Knowles, a victim of identity theft in Chicago, said every day she would learn of a new theft after someone stole her identity by opening several credit card accounts in her name and running up one hundred thousand dollars of debt.

“I’d feel better if they had taken my purse, rather then my life and identity which is what is felt like for the last two years.”

Prosecutors have said one of the three men has already pleaded guilty to mail fraud.