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August 7th, 2008

Credit/Debit Card Scheme: 41 Million Victims



The US Federal Government has charged 11 men with the theft and sale of over 41 million credit and debit card numbers stolen from major US retailers. The thieves installed “sniffing” programs, where payment-card data from the retailers’ computer system was transported and stored on two servers located in Latvia and the Ukraine.

The retailers affected include TJX (Marshalls and TJ Maxx), BJ’s Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21, and DSW.

This case represents the largest identity theft prosecution ever made in the US:

Computer security experts hailed the charges as a breakthrough in solving some of the cases, which date back to 2003. Nevertheless, the new information presented on Tuesday revealed what may be a major reason that government investigators had come up short for so long.

That major reason is Albert Gonzalez, an informant for the Secret Service in its investigations of computer breaches at major retailers. Of the 11 men charged, 3 are US citizens, including Gonzalez. Experts say most victims are living in the US, and still may be unaware their numbers have been compromised. (To safely check your credit report click here.) These indictments are a further indication of just how susceptible consumers’ personal information remains in our high-tech world.

To ensure your personal information remains closed off to the outside world, be sure to read these 20 steps to preventing identity theft.

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Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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