ID theft letters being investigated

October 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Millions of people nationwide are receiving letters warning them their personal information may have been lost or sold.

The letters have prompted several inquiries from ABC7 viewers asking if the warnings are legitimate or part of a scam. We decided to look into it to find out.

Rebecca Jeschke of Oakland received her notice from the Bank of New York, Mellon. The letter detailed the lost of back-up data storage tapes containing personal information about Rebecca. The letter immediately raised red flags for her.

"Certainly when I got it I had no idea I was ever a customer of Mellon or that they would have my information," said Jeschke.

A handful of other people wrote to 7 On Your Side as well wondering the same thing. One person asked if this was a honest or true situation, another viewer wanted to know if this was on the up and up.

"I think it's a healthy skepticism. Absolutely, we get bombarded with spam every day," said Jeschke

Countrywide Home Loans recently also sent out an alert to its customers. The mortgage company stated: "an employee may have sold unauthorized personal information."

Again viewers wrote in to inquire if this was real. We checked and both letters from Countrywide and Mellon should be taken seriously.

The executive director of Privacy Activism, based in San Francisco, estimates there are about two data breaches a week.

"I actually found eight data breaches throughout the course of the month," said Privacy Activism executive director Deborah Pierce.

The Bank of New York Mellon said it sent out 12 million letters since early spring. The latest round of letters went out in early October.

Countrywide did not respond to our questions asking how many letters it sent out, but it did tell us security is a top priority and that the employee suspected in the case is no longer with the company.

An investigation is now being conducted by the FBI.

Meantime, financial institutions and creditors nationwide will be required by the feds to implement an identity theft prevention program next month.

"I think it's a good move. It's a common sense move," said Pierce.

California was actually the first state in the nationwide in 2003 to implement a law requiring companies to notify their customers whenever there is a data breach.

Meantime both Mellon and Countrywide have offered its customers two years of free credit monitoring as a precaution.

Related links:

  • Data security breach notification law
  • Chronology of data breaches
  • Reducing the Risk of Identity Theft
  • Identity Theft Victims Guide


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