The number of people being notified that they may have been caught in a massive identity-theft scam quadrupled Wednesday to 145,000 amid calls for better protection of personal information, reports the Los Angeles Times. ChoicePoint Inc., one of the nation’s largest collectors of consumer data, said it would warn 110,000 people outside California that con artists posing as merchants had looked at information including addresses, phone listings, Social Security numbers and credit reports. The company took the step after criticism that it was sending warning letters only to 35,000 possible victims in California, which requires such disclosure.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) cited the ChoicePoint case in requesting hearings on a bill to require companies to better safeguard personal data and disclose some security lapses. Although breaches of credit bureaus and other such collectors occur from time to time, the scale of the ChoicePoint operation was among the largest ever uncovered. The scammers used 50 fake ChoicePoint merchant accounts to look at the personal information of thousands of people nationwide. That information can be used to open credit card accounts or buy goods under assumed names. Los Angeles authorities have identified 750 people victims so far. The ring operated for more than a year before it was detected last fall.