4,500 Caught Up In Loss of Data Conned From Firm
By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
One of the nation's largest commercial information services said
yesterday that thousands of Washington area residents were among those
whose personal and financial details were sold to fraud artists
apparently behind a nationwide identity theft scheme.
As many as 4,500 residents in the District, Maryland and Virginia were
among up to 145,000 people whose names, addresses, Social Security
numbers and, in some cases, credit files were electronically shipped
by ChoicePoint Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga., to people posing as business
officials in the Los Angeles area.
Investigators said they think the number of victims will continue to
rise as officials learn more about the scheme. At least one lawmaker
on Capitol Hill has called for stiffer regulation of commercial data
services. This week, others are expected to push for hearings about
the information industry.
To control the damage to consumers and the company, ChoicePoint
executives over the weekend decided to announce changes in how they
assess their clients and maintain security.
Starting today ChoicePoint will offer victims free credit reports and
credit-monitoring services for the next year. ChoicePoint officials
said they expect to finish sending out notices by the end of the
week. Company officials also said they will curb access to some
sensitive information for as many as 17,000 small-business clients,
including some lawyers, private investigators and insurance companies,
while verifying their legitimacy. Conducting the background checks
could take as long as two months, the officials said.