- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) Officials said yesterday that 10,000 more people could be victims of the massive identity-fraud case that may have already compromised personal information of 30,000 people whose records were stolen at a Long Island company.
A day after prosecutors warned that thousands of people were vulnerable to a high-tech assault on their identities, Linda Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center, said she was told by investigators in Manhattan that they identified more potential fraud victims.
As the debacle widened, consumers moved to try to protect their finances and credit lines.
"It's just been a deluge," said Jay Foley, director of consumer and victims services at the Identity Theft Resource Center. The San Diego-based nonprofit organization, which helps victims of identity theft, was among several agencies nationwide that were swarmed with calls.
Callers worried they might be victims of the massive identity-theft scheme that has already claimed losses of $2.7 million. Authorities warned that losses will multiply and more victims may be discovered.
U.S. Attorney James B. Comey said Monday that prosecutors were still trying to learn how many people had their bank accounts drained, addresses changed, lines of credit opened and new credit cards opened without their approval.
He said almost all the fraudulent charges and withdrawals would be covered by financial institutions. Prosecutors are sending letters to victims that can be used as proof to credit agencies and financial institutions.
An identity fraud hot line reported a 33 percent increase in calls Monday, said Claudia Farrell, a Federal Trade Commission spokeswoman.
Authorities said the scheme began about three years ago when Philip Cummings, a help-desk worker at a Long Island software company, sold passwords and codes for downloading consumer credit reports to an unidentified person.
They credited the Ford Motor Credit Co., the world's largest automotive-finance company, with discovering the fraud last winter.
More than 15,000 credit reports were stolen from Experian, a credit-history bureau, using passwords belonging to Ford Motor Credit Corp., a finance arm of Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich., officials said.
Melinda Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Ford credit company, said that only a few Ford customers were affected, and that the company, a victim itself, went to authorities immediately.
"We didn't know what we had at first. We just kept digging and digging and unraveling and pulling, trying to get to the bottom of it," she said.
"This was a breach that was made falsely in our name and, as such, it was deeply disturbing."


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