Bankrate Releases Poll: 8 out of 10 Americans Concerned about ID Theft

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NEW YORK, April 21 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Bankrate, Inc. today released the findings of a national poll which found that 8 out of 10 Americans are concerned about their identity being stolen. Furthermore, over one-third (34%) of Americans know someone who has been a victim of identity theft. The poll is included in this month's segment of Bankrate's Financial Literacy Series: Protect your identity.

From today's Headlines:
Here's an example of why we have good reason to fear id theft;

700,000 Hoosier ID's compromised in computer theft

INDIANAPOLIS -- A computer server containing Social Security numbers and other personal information of 700,000 people was stolen last month from a Southside debt-collection bureau in what appears to be the largest computer security breach ever in Indiana.

The information includes customer-billing records for about 100 Indiana businesses, including Citizens Gas & Coke Utility, St. Vincent Health and Methodist Medical Group.

The exposed data was limited to past-due billing information that had been turned over for debt collection to the Central Collection Bureau, the agency announced Friday. Customers whose accounts were in good standing were not affected.

The bureau collected overdue bills on behalf of dozens of Indiana companies, including hospitals, medical and dental offices, window companies, water-conditioning companies and flower shops.

"We're obviously heartsick about this," said Chet Klene, the collection agency's president. "We've been in business since 1972, and nothing like this has ever happened before."

He said the missing computer server contained personal billing information that was protected by two passwords but was not encrypted. He said the server had been stored behind three locked doors.

Klene said the break-in occurred on Good Friday, March 20. The first employee arriving at work that day noticed the break-in and immediately called the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, which investigated but has not found the server. The collection agency has notified companies whose billing records have been compromised, Klene said.

Joan Antokol, a lawyer specializing in computer security at Baker & Daniels, an Indianapolis-based law firm, said the breach was the largest she had seen in Indiana. No larger breaches in Indiana are included among the hundreds of incidents listed on Privacy, a national clearinghouse.

"It's a problem that continues to grow," Antokol said. "There are new cases reported all the time. It's a serious problem."

Still, this breach does not rank among the top dozen or so nationally. Retailer TJ Maxx reported that as many as 100 million accounts were compromised as a result of thefts and hack-ins since last year.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said information on more than 28 million veterans might have been exposed after a laptop was stolen from an employee's house in 2006., a Web-based job service, said information on more than 1 million job seekers had been stolen last year, containing names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

A spokesman for Citizens Gas said its missing records were past-due billing statements for 51,000 former customers that it was unable to find on its own. The information included names, last known addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of service and amount due.

Citizens has no way of notifying the former customers because their whereabouts are unknown, spokesman Dan Considine said.

"We certainly take this very seriously, any time there is a security breach, and we hope it gets cleared up very soon," he said.

St. Vincent Health said it had not given any billing business to Central Collection in more than three years, so all of the missing billing information is several years old. The stolen information included patient billing information for St. Vincent Hospital and affiliated physicians' practices, spokesman Johnny Smith said.

"We're committed to protecting confidential information of our patients. We regret any inconvenience to them," Smith said.

Billing records of about 62,000 patients of Methodist Medical Group, a physicians' group owned by Clarian Health, also were missing, as are the records of thousands of patients at Howard Regional Health System in Kokomo.

The break-in is being investigated by IMPD and the Indiana attorney general's office.


Michigan Students Told of Possible Data Theft

Traverse City - A computer theft could put the personal information of 1,600 Northern Michigan College students from 2003 at risk.

The college released a report Friday saying a laptop computer was stolen from a company called SunGard Higher Education. SunGard provides the college core data management systems.

The company told Northern of the theft April 10, nearly a month after the computer was stolen. The college found out about the data on the computer on April 16.

"We also have expressed our deep concern to SunGard about the length of time it took them to notify us of this incident," said Craig Mulder, NMC's Executive Director of Learning Resources and Technologies.


ID theft by Russian gang prompts police prevention effort

A wave of information thefts from retail PIN pads by a Russian gang has prompted Victoria-area police to launch a campaign to get area businesses to tighten security.

The Victoria area has twice been hit by a Russian gang, says Sergeant John Price of the Saanich police. It is believed to have since moved back to the Mainland. It doctors PIN pads in groceries and other high-volume retailers to reveal customers' PINs and account numbers. The gang then loots the accounts.

$102 million was stolen last year via debit card data theft, says Price.

"Their methods keep changing," says Price. "This is the latest. The gang started with this in Ontario and Quebec and has moved to the Lower Mainland." The group keeps switching locations as storekeepers in one area become more cautious.

After an initial wave of account thefts hit the Victoria area in December, police alerted storekeepers to the gang's modus operandi. The gang apparently moved on, perhaps up-island, but then returned for a second attack. "One storekeeper caught on as it was going down and called us," says Price. "We knew they were back."

No arrests have been made but Price says police have good leads on the gang, not least of which is security camera footage of the gang in action

The scheme may begin with the outright theft of a checkout card reader, which is modified with Bluetooth short-range wireless technology and switched later with the card reader at a different store.


Brunswick warns on possible identity theft

Brunswick Corp. disclosed Monday that an electronic devices that scans customers' drivers' licenses to make sure they're of legal drinking age was stolen from a company-owned bowling facility in suburban Naperville.

The scanning device, which verifies whether a license has been tampered with by reading a license's magnetic strip, is capable of retaining personal information of up to 700 of the latest patrons whose cards were swiped through the machine.

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