Hieu Minh Ngo has pleaded guilty to a number of identity theft related charges in the Federal District Court of New Hampshire and been sentenced to 13 years in prison. Between 2007 and 2013 Ngo obtained access to as many as 200 million consumer records from large data brokers including Court Ventures, which is 2012 was acquired by Experian, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Ngo was able to access these records by posing as a private investigator. Putting this number into perspective, it represents 60% of the population of the United States. He then sold to identity thieves comprehensive packages of consumer data, referred to in the world of identity thieves as “fullz,” made up of individuals’ names, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, birth dates bank account numbers and bank routing numbers, on black market websites he operated called Superget.info and findget.me. According to the Justice Department, Ngo sold fullz to 1,300 identity thieves, who in turn committed large numbers of identity theft including 65 million dollars in income tax identity theft alone. Ngo could have been sentenced to 24 years in prison, but through a plea bargain got a reduced sentenced in return for his cooperation in identifying his former identity thief customers.
Now, a class action lawsuit has been filed in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California against Experian alleging it was negligent in failing to protect its consumer data from Ngo. The class action is seeking to have Experian ordered to notify all affected consumers, provide free credit monitoring services to affected consumers and establish a fund to reimburse those who became victims of identity theft due to Experian’s negligence. I will keep you informed as further developments in this case occur.
This case is yet another example of how vulnerable we all are to identity theft because we are only as secure as the companies and governmental agencies that have our personal information. One thing, however, we can all do to protect ourselves is to put a credit freeze on our credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, which will prevent access to our personal credit records and the information contained therein. Go to the Archives section of Scamicide for further information about how to put a credit freeze on your credit reports.