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John Hollenhorst ReportingRichard Hamp, Utah Attorney General’s Office: “Probably the biggest question we’re getting is, ‘Am I a victim?’”
The Utah Attorney General's office is being swamped with calls. People wonder if they've been swept up in one of the biggest cases ever of identity theft. Surprisingly, we can give you the number of victims in Utah. It's apparently 986. But no one in Utah seems to know who the victims are.
It's a strange situation caused by an unprecedented breach of corporate security by organized criminals. Until this week, you probably never heard of a company called Choicepoint. But they almost certainly know about you. They've got your number! Phone number, social security number, you name it. And they let criminals into their files.
Like it or not, a company in Georgia called Choicepoint has been keeping track of you.
Richard Hamp, Utah Attorney General's Office: “You and me and everybody is in their files.”
Choicepoint is one of those side roads leading off the information highway. An offshoot of credit bureaus, Choicepoint keeps track of personal financial information and sells it to other, supposedly legitimate companies.
Richard Hamp: “More information probably than what you’d feel comfortable in other people knowing.”
Unfortunately, the company had trouble distinguishing legitimate businesses from a gang of crooks.
Richard Hamp: “A bunch of enterprising criminals posed as businessmen were given the access codes to Choicepoint, and gained access.”
Receptionist: “We’re right now in the process of trying to get a list of the victims in Utah.”
Callers started bombarding the Attorney General's office after the news broke. So far Choicepoint hasn't revealed whose identities the crooks managed to swipe. Nationally, Choicepoint, says there were 144,000 victims, 986 in Utah.
Betsy Schoenfeld, Utah Attorney General's Receptionist: “So hopefully we’ll be able to get that list of victims so that we can make those victims aware before any damage is done.”
The potential damage could be someone using your credit card, your social security number, your credit rating, to get loans or make purchases.
It's a variation of identity theft that new legislation in Utah is aimed at stopping. Senate Bill 39 would give consumers control of their own credit information. You could freeze your information so a Credit Bureau couldn't release it to any business unless you call first with your personal P.I.N. number.
Richard Hamp: “You give them the PIN, they unfreeze the information so that you can go ahead and make your purchase.”
That bill passed the Utah Senate unanimously, but it's facing opposition in the House. Credit Bureau lobbyists didn't return our calls, But they've told lawmakers it will cost too much to implement. A committee hearing is planned tomorrow.