Friday, March 04, 2005

The Call For Hearings Following Identity Thefts At ChoicePoint Inc. Is A Welcome Development According To Robert Siciliano Of

The Call For Hearings Following Identity Thefts At ChoicePoint Inc. Is A Welcome Development According To Robert Siciliano Of

(BOSTON -- March 4, 2005 -- A compromised database at ChoicePoint Inc. has left thousands of Americans' identities vulnerable to foul play. In the wake of this theft and security failures at Bank of America and elsewhere, many are expressing concern that missing or stolen information could fall into the hands of Al Qaeda and others. Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are asking the Department of Homeland Security and Government Accountability Office to look into how these developments might enable terrorists. "Organized criminals have latched onto identity theft, previously the domain of savvy hackers," said Robert Siciliano, a nationally televised and quoted personal security and identity theft expert. "Terrorists realize this is the most effective way to cross borders undetected, fund their cause and bankrupt commercial interests to cripple the American economy," he said. On Feb. 24, shortly after the ChoicePoint scandal broke, Siciliano, author of "The Safety Minute: 01," appeared on CNBC's "The Closing Bell" to discuss the dangers of identity theft. In their letter dated March 3 to Gen. Patrick Hughes - an acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security - a number of Democrats wrote, "This security gap places America at risk. There is nothing to stop an organized terrorist organization like Al Qaeda from using this vulnerability to access the personal information of private citizens and use it against our nation." The undersigned of that letter included ranking Democrats from a number of Senate and House of Representative committees and subcommittees including Rep. Bennie Thompson, Rep. John Conyers, Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Loretta Sanchez and Rep. Zoe Lofgren. Similar letters were sent to David Walker, comptroller general at the Government Accountability Office, and Nuala O'Connor Kelly, chief privacy officer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "Government officials see the writing on the wall and are scared," said Siciliano. "The identity theft virus, a pandemic, is spreading fast. Officials need to focus on a cure. Regulation is only a small part of the answer," he added. Rep. Thompson is the ranking Democrat of the House Committee on Homeland Security. A press release from his Washington, D.C. office indicates that he sent a letter to that committee's chairman, Rep. Christopher Cox, a Republican, calling for hearings. In the letter, Rep. Thompson wrote, "The thefts at ChoicePoint and Bank of America demonstrate the vulnerability of our citizens' personal information to potential terrorist attack and use." Later in the letter, he continued, "A committee hearing on identity theft ... would provide considerable information to determine exactly how large a security gap exists." "Half of the hijackers on 9/11 used stolen or fake IDs," said Siciliano. "Previously, in the year 2000, more than 100,000 Social Security numbers were wrongly issued by the Social Security Administration because officials there accepted fake birth certificates and fake immigration papers. Nothing has been done. If a virus goes untreated, it spreads," Siciliano added. News has surfaced that thieves gained access to ChoicePoint's database not only in late 2004, but also in 2002. A number of people have been able to view individuals' identities at ChoicePoint by masquerading as legitimate small business owners - such as debt collectors, loan companies and others - who would typically need such information. Some say ChoicePoint has been lax in its security screening process. "ChoicePoint's reckless behavior and lack of security are just small parts of the problem," said Siciliano. "Fraudulent financial accounts can be opened simply through the creation of documents or the use of readily available Social Security numbers. Fundamental changes in the system of identification should be a focal point for the committee and investigations," he added. Siciliano is available to discuss identity theft, the terrorism threat and national security. A speaker who leads seminars nationwide, he has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, "ABC News with Sam Donaldson," "The Montel Williams Show," "Maury Povich," "Sally Jesse Raphael" and "The Howard Stern Show." He has been featured in Reuters,, Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping, Mademoiselle, The New York Post, The New York Times and The Washington Times. Siciliano can be reached at 1-888-SICILIANO (742-4542). The following URLs will take readers to his Web site and information about his work:, The media are encouraged to get in touch with Siciliano directly or through STETrevisions, strategic communications Brent W. Skinner, president. By calling (617)875-4859, faxing (866)663-6557 or e-mailing

CONTACT:Robert SicilianoBoston, MA 02215PHONE.(617)875-4859 PHONE.(888)742-4542E-MAIL:


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