Sony PlayStation Network Security Breach Leads to Lawsuits, ID Theft Fears

The recent security breach of Sony’s PlayStation Network, in which hackers boosted the personal data of some 77 million online gamers, continues to hold its own in a busy news week, competing with the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, a tornado that ravaged Alabama, and floodwaters that threaten the American Midwest.

The Australian Broadcast Corporation reports that a man from “the land down under” has discovered unauthorized charges made in his name. The Australian man, Rory Spreckley, claims that some $2,000 dollars have been charged to his account. His PlayStation Network user data were among those compromised in the breach.

Spreckley has thus become the first reported victim of the massive data theft event, which stands as the largest such theft in history. Many Sony customers have grown angry with the company for its reticence in informing them of the scale and scope of the security breach. Indeed, Sony has yet to state definitively whether hackers did in fact make off with sensitive user information.

This anger has of course led to legal action against Sony. An April 28, 2011 CNET News story reports that the first lawsuit has been filed against the company by one Kristopher Johns of Birmingham, Alabama. Johns’s grievance concerns an alleged dereliction on Sony’s part with respect to keep his and his fellow users’ sensitive data safe. The CNET piece states that Johns’s lawsuit requests “monetary compensation and free credit card monitoring” as compensation for the difficult straits into which Sony put him and his fellow PlayStation couch jockeys. Johns’s attorney, the CNET piece continues, is considering making his client’s suit into a class action.

Beyond the legal niceties of this data breach linger more important ethical considerations. An April 29, 2011 article in The Australian deems the Sony PlayStation Network hack a “wake-up” call alerting all citizens to the ever-present danger of cyber ID theft. The article reports that Web security nabob Bill Caelli has taken up a one-man crusade to compel the Australian government to enact legislation requiring full and immediate disclosure of data security breaches of the type recently experienced by Sony.

Whether Caelli is successful only time will tell. This Sony security breach, however, should impress upon you the vital importance of taking security of your sensitive data in your own hands. The first positive step you can take in this direction is by enrolling with a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring service. Authorities can intervene only when it too late. Get active before cyber ID thieves do. You’ll be glad you did.

PlayStation Network Hack: The First of Many ID Theft Holocausts?

The recent security breach at Sony comes as a warning to Apple and Youtube, two companies that keep a vast repository of customer financial information. SiliconRepublic.com reports that the security breach at Sony is one of the greatest in history.

A security breach at Apple and Amazon could prove even greater, however.

Apple alone represents one of the world’s largest repositories of credit card information, the article reports. Between iTunes and the iPhone, millions upon millions of people around the world entrust their financial information to the company.

Apple must institute the highest level of security protection for its customers or risk losing their business.

Already Sony has lost the trust of many of its customers, who feel the company ought to require stronger passwords to thwart would-be hackers. The state of Alabama has already initiated a lawsuit against the company.

It remains to be seen, however, to what extent the attack compromised customer information. But, as the article concludes, an important lesson will be learned. And since we’re still in the early days of cloud computing, it’s a lesson that companies cannot afford to misunderstand.

Marriage and ID Theft: An Unholy Union?

marriage identity theft“If you ain’t runnin’ game

Say my name, say my name.”

–Destiny’s Child

The April 27, 2011 edition of ;The Sidney Morning Herald features an intriguing opinion piece that claims women are victims of identity theft — through marriage. “Identity theft is a contemporary challenge, yet our society is still happy to promote mass change of identity — but only for women,” the piece’s author, Jeanette Berman, boldly asserts.

In days past a woman’s identity was defined by her marriage. Usually a woman newly married was prohibited from working, so as to be dependent on her husband. Berman, however, balked at the idea of taking her husband’s name — and she suffered trouble for it.

Berman reports being required by the Australian Passport Office to present a letter written by her husband to give her permission to have a passport in her birth name. She was not allowed to use the title “Ms.” and had to have her colleagues and pupils (she was a teacher) refer to her instead as “Missus.”

These inconveniences incensed Berman, because she felt that it was nobody’s business if she were married or not. Indeed, she heartily believed herself to have been made a victim of identity theft.

Berman’s opinion piece gives us another take on the problem of identity theft. Whether you agree that marriage is a form of identity theft, it is hard to deny the inconveniences that come with having to change your name.

Friends, Sony PlayStation Two Significant ID Theft Threats

playstationAn old saying goes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” What happens, though, when you come to discover that your friend has become your enemy? This unsettling discovery happens with increasing frequency in these days of rampant identity theft.

So-called “friendly fraud,” ID theft committed by an acquaintance or relation of the victim, represents a burgeoning form of ID theft. According to an article appearing in the April 25, 2011 edition of The Baltimore Sun, over 14 percent of ID theft cases — that’s one in seven cases — involves fraud committed by someone familiar to the victim.

Along with the greater sense of violation and betrayal that comes with friendly fraud comes greater financial wreckage, because unlike ID theft at the hands of a stranger fraud committed by a friend tends to go on for a greater amount of time. Friendly fraudsters generally manage to get away with their crime for longer than do strangers by virtue of the relationship friendly fraudsters enjoy with their victims, who tend not to suspect those closest to them.

The Baltimore Sun article goes on to report that “new-account fraud” represents the friendly fraudster’s fraud of choice these days. In this type of ID theft, fraudsters use their victims’ identity in order to acquire lines of credit. This type of fraud enjoys the virtue of being more easily concealed from victims, as they never receive bills for payments due on these credit lines.

Although friendly fraud continues its surge in frequency, the threat of identity theft at the hands of strangers also remains a real threat. Indeed, as the April 26, 2011 edition of Britain’s The Sun reports, the credit standing of some 75 million people hangs in the balance as the result of a security breach of Sony’s PlayStation Network, which allows member gamers to play multiplayer video games with each other online.

This breach, brought on by hackers, continues into its sixth day, and experts can’t say for certain when security will be restored or the degree to which members’ personal data were compromised.

These recent reports really go to show you how omnipresent a danger identity theft is. Whether at the hands of a loved one or some anonymous hacker, the financial and emotional devastation that comes as a result of ID theft is immense. Many services can help you restore your good name and creditworthiness, but who can you turn to help you restore your happiness and faith in humanity? One handy resource is the Identity Theft Facts users’ forum, where members can share their ID theft experiences, exchange tips, offer advice, and extend sympathy. Check it out today. It may be just what the doctor ordered

Queens Widow Nearly Loses Home to Identity Thieves

An article appearing in the April 25, 2011 edition of The New York Post brings word of a widow whose house was almost foreclosed upon as a result of identity theft.

The elderly widow’s nightmare began in November 2007. A resident of Queens County, New York, the widow in question went to pay her annual property tax only to discover that her property had been sold by a man posing as her husband, who had died in 1986.

The “buyer” of the widow’s house was another scam artist who had stolen the identity of an immigrant woman from Togo who was living in New Jersey.

All told, some eight people and a couple of crooked lawyers took part in a scam that almost lost an innocent widow the home she had been living in since 1979.

Despite all the evident identity theft and trickery, Wells Fargo, the bank through which the fraudulent funds had moved, refused to acknowledge the widow’s victimization, thus compounding her anguish and difficulty.

Wells Fargo has since had a change of heart, however. It has decided to relent and is dismissing the foreclosure action.

The case of the nearly dispossessed Queens widow presents quite a pointed object lesson in the audacity of identity thieves. Not content with just stealing money from a bank account or snatching a tax return, they will even go so far as to evict you from your own home.

ID Thief Amasses $36 Million in Fradulent Credit Card Transactions

Credit cards certainly introduce an ease and convenience into our lives. But they also serve as vectors through which identity thieves can steal financial information.

Take for instance the case of a Georgia man who recently plead guilty to causing more than $36 million in losses as a result of credit card fraud.

The mind boggles at such an exorbitant amount of money! But such is the truth of the matter. Rogelio Hackett, the criminal in question, acknowledged that he obtained credit card numbers for the previous seven years by hacking into business computer networks, downloading credit card databases, and purchasing credit card numbers over the Internet. A search of Hackett’s home uncovered 675,000 stolen credit card numbers.

Secret Service agents discerned Hackett’s trail and purchased 40 counterfeit cards from him in June 2009. With the evidence of Hackett’s crime in hand, they accused him of amassing tens of thousands of fraudulent transactions, totaling more than $36 million.

Hackett won’t go unpunished: He faces up to 12 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Just because one criminal is safely behind bars doesn’t mean dozens more don’t lurk behind every financial transaction. Take the necessary precautions so you too don’t fall into the greedy clutches of an identity thief. Keep track of every financial transaction, and never leave your financial information where others can find it. Check bank account statement every day. Never disclose your personal information to unfamiliar organizations or individuals.

NSTIC to Stick It to Identity Thieves

ABC News reports that the government has developed a plan for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC). This plan, which was unveiled last week, provides a number of suggestions for improving consumer safety online.

The government proposes to grant a stamp of approval to online vendors and hopes to initiate a partial consolidation of Internet logins.

Policy makers have said that they will aim for a balanced approach that will use multiple login providers. They hope that improved security will encourage consumers to use mobile payments through smartphones.

But some consumers are worried that the government will create a database of Americans’ Web-surfing habits.

Another criticism voices concern that third parties could collect large amounts of information about consumers.

Consumer fears about the new system notwithstanding, online identity theft is something that everyone must consider. The average cost of a stolen identity is $631 per person.

Recent Congressional hearing on cyber security should see additional recommendations for increasing online consumer protection.

Fraudster Hijacks Womens’ Facebook Pics, Posts Them on Porn Sites

The Greenfieldreporter.com reports that thieves rely on Facebook as a means of stealing identities. “A Minnesota man is accused of hacking into Facebook accounts and stealing identifications and photos of young women,” the article reports.

The 26-year-old man would then post the photographs and information of his victims on sexually explicit websites.

Compounding the problem was the fact that the victims gave the identity thief their information. On their Facebook pages they revealed answers to security questions, which allowed the thief to reset their passwords. The thief then proceeded to contact the victims’ friends in order to gain even more information about the victims, which he then used against them.

The case of the crook from the land of a thousand lakes is another reminder to keep all personal information on social networking sites private. Never accept friend requests from strangers, and never willingly hand over information that could compromise your financial and personal well-being.

Facebook’s Data Security Deemed Inadequate

facebook security issuesThe delight of catching up with friends, family, even old flames has certainly been enhanced with the advent of Facebook. Yet this pleasure has not come without a price. Used unwisely, Facebook can expose you to the threat of identity theft.

One of the nation’s fastest growing crimes, identity theft wrecks lives and sows misery wherever it reaches. And, unfortunately, Facebook and other social media have significantly upped the chances that identity theft will reach you.

The Internet security firm Sophos recognizes this threat. An April 18, 2011 article on ZDNEt.com reports that the company recently published an open letter to Facebook, strongly encouraging it to take measures to properly safeguard its users’ personal information. Facebook’s current practices Sophos deems inadequate. Sophos thus made several recommendations for enhancing the security of Facebook users’ data. These measures include:

  • eliminating opt-in privacy settings in favor of opt-out;
  • better scrutinizing third-party app developers;
  • offering secure connections for every page under Facebook’s aegis.

The ZDnet.com article goes on to report that Sophos acknowledges that Facebook can never be made 100 percent secure. The recommended measures, however, will go a long way toward making far more secure than it is presently.

It’s comforting to read that internet security provider Sophos has Facebook and its users’ best interests at heart. But do you have your own best interest as much at heart. How about that of your loved ones? A reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring service can help to shore up gaps in your own data security. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Identity thieves strike without warning, and their blows prove extremely devastating.

Politician Stumps for Greater Protection from ID Theft

american flagAn article in the April 17, 2011 edition of upstate New York’s Waterton Daily Times reports that New York representative William Owens has lent his voice to growing calls for greater security of personal information. The fact that the Medicare administration continues to use the Social Security numbers of those who receive its benefits, despite the fact that evidence has shown that this practice puts beneficiaries at risk for identity theft, particularly irritates Owens. Senior citizens — those who receive Medicare benefits — represent a population particularly vulnerable to this crime.

The Daily Times article goes on to report that Owens has recommended that the Medicare and Medicaid apparatuses assign alternate numbers to their beneficiaries. Officials from these administrations have responded by declaring Owens’ recommendation too vague to merit implementation.

Yet the problem of identity theft persists undiminished, afflicting senior citizens, children, and even newborns. And plenty of people in others age groups suffer this scourge as well. Indeed, even the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) has weighed in Owens’ favor, considering his recommended measure not only practical but absolutely necessary.

Even the GAO recognizes that identity theft presents a clear and present danger to your financial and emotional well being. Don’t you think it time, then, to secure the services of a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring specialist? Each day you delay you expose yourself and your loved ones to the risk of fraud.

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