Federal agents in Seattle arrested three people connected with a private investigation firm on charges of gathering confidential information on individuals through trickery by calling the offices of such agencies as the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Caller to a government agency, hospital, or other office would pretend to be another person, then ask for that person’s income tax return, medical records, or other confidential information.
Apparently, this is only the second federal case of kits kind. The first involved the Hewlett-Packard corporate board’s starting a leak investigation in which a private investigator used pretexting to gather information about journalists who may have received confidential information from the board. One private investigator pleaded guilty in January to federal charges of aggravated identity theft and conspiracy. In the Seattle case, law firms, collections agencies, and estranged spouses in divorce cases hired private investigators. A prosecutor said the investigators assumed the identities of their victims during pretexting telephone calls; they might pretend to have a kidnapped child or be a battered spouse to get the information they wanted. “Anything that would embarrass or work on the good will” of the agencies to get them to turn over information, said the prosecutor.