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U.S. states probing security breach at Experian unit

Security Breach At Experian

By Jim Finkle and Karen Freifeld

(Reuters) - U.S. attorneys general have launched a multi-state investigation into a breach in which criminals gained access to a repository of some 200 million social security numbers through a unit of data provider Experian Plc.

"We are investigating," said Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. "It's part of a multistate investigation."

Jaclyn Falkowski, spokeswoman for Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, said that Connecticut is looking into the matter also.

Neither attorney general's office would say if other states were involved.

A spokesman for Experian declined comment on the probe, saying the company does not comment on such investigations as a matter of policy.

Vietnamese national Hieu Minh Ngo last month pleaded guilty in New Hampshire federal court to running an underground website that offered clients access to personal data of Americans including social security numbers, which could be used for identity theft and other types of financial fraud.

Federal authorities say that he obtained some of that through a U.S. firm known as Court Ventures, which provides customers with access to court records. It also offers them access to a database of social security numbers of some 200 million Americans through a data-share arrangement with another firm, known as U.S. Info Search.

Ngo obtained an account with Court Ventures sometime before March 2012, when Experian bought the data firm, by posing as a Singapore-based private investigator, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say that Ngo's customers used Court Ventures to make some 3.1 million queries of the U.S. Info Search database over an 18-month period ending in February 2013. Authorities have not said how many people's data was accessed through those queries, each of which could have potentially included multiple records or returned no data.

Officials with both Experian and U.S. Info Search say they have not been able to ascertain which records were accessed by Ngo's customers and are therefore unable to notify victims.

"We are actively pursuing the facts and we are working to help uncover what records may have been affected," said Experian spokesman Gerry Tschopp.

A spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service declined comment. The agency investigated Ngo using undercover agents and lured him from Vietnam to Guam where he was arrested.

He is now awaiting sentencing in New Hampshire federal court.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle and Karen Freifeld; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Lisa Shumaker)

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sunnyhoney95 April 04 2014 at 12:02 PM

This makes a person sick and disgusted. We are at the mercy of these credit reporting agencies. They have our lives in their hands because decisions effecting our lives are based on the information these agencies collect. If a company is going to take on the responsibility of having our personal information , they need to be held to the highest accountability. There are too many people taking care of everything and too much information being recorded and kept. It's easy for a jerk like this to gain access because most of the people working in these companies really give a d...... They are there for their paycheck. Good Grief!!!

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dorisashaheen April 04 2014 at 12:12 PM

that's the downside....we are not individuals anymore, just numbers.... george orwell ring a bell?

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cclam60319 April 04 2014 at 4:40 PM

well now need they contact all the 200 millions people that they give away there private information. we all should sue them.

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2 replies
TEUFEL cclam60319 April 04 2014 at 4:49 PM

I agree whole heartedly. A nice big fat Class Action Suit and handled before next year (2014).

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jim willeford cclam60319 April 04 2014 at 4:51 PM

Agreed...they have been playing fast and often loosely with the people's financial lives for WAAAAY too LNG anyway.

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Queen Darling April 04 2014 at 12:13 PM

Well, gee, let's not go all crazy and actually start enforcing our immigration laws now. What's a couple hundred million of OUR SSN's in the hands of criminals gonna matter to our government anyway.

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narrwriter April 04 2014 at 4:34 PM

Credit reporting agencies should be shut down if they can't keep a tight ship. They make the lives of millions miserable by mismanaging information and taking months to connect the mistakes that they make. And everybody declines comment; seems like the criminals are in charge of the jail house.

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Wealth Builder April 04 2014 at 12:15 PM

If these companies did not data mine each of us to have every piece of personal info on us in the first place, it wouldn't be there for someone to steal. We have no privacy and all of our info is either for sale or just sitting there waiting to be stolen.

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broleotskb April 04 2014 at 12:16 PM

The US government needs to put the highest priority on securing the data most critical to the citizens that PAY their salaries. Most are ignoring the basics and that is, the American consumer must have the highest confidence in doing business on the web. At this point, I would say this confidence is fractured. If this continues along the same path, we might as well bring back ALL the malls and get back to physical means of consumership.

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1 reply
Jay broleotskb April 04 2014 at 12:28 PM

Bring back the malls.........nothing wrong with that as it creates jobs and gives people a choice.

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Madeleine April 04 2014 at 12:16 PM

If it takes as long to get the leaked ss #'s as it does to get an erroneous debt off a person's Experian credit report we are in for a LONG wait.

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mgobluee2 April 04 2014 at 12:17 PM

This is exactly why SS# should never have evolved into a way to gain or be denied credit - or even be attached to your credit history. They were designed to be used by the government to track your future benefits.

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1 reply
cskl mgobluee2 April 04 2014 at 12:34 PM

What gave the credit companies the right to have your ss# in the first place?

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rdcabe April 04 2014 at 12:12 PM

You know out soucing jobs over seas for cheap labor, and computers to replace humans this is what you get. Hackers hacking away at computers with humans programing them. LOL

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