Identity Theft

Michelle Obama & Celebrities’ Credit Reports Hacked

Comments 24 Comments

It’s the ultimate in financial creepiness: knowing someone’s been spying on your credit or other financial details. How about then having those details posted online for anyone to view — or grab?

That’s apparently what happened yesterday when a group of public officials and celebrities including First Lady Michelle Obama, FBI Director Robert Mueller and, yes, celebrity Paris Hilton. They all reportedly had their credit reports and other financial details posted online. News reports are pointing to a website in Russia that published the information on Monday and continued to add to it throughout the day. So far, it hasn’t been confirmed whether the information posted was accurate or whether it perhaps was a hoax, though it sounds as if it probably was the former.

Though the number of victims here appears to be small — just under a dozen by last report — the fact that they are high profile public figures means the hack not only makes the news, but it brings out the big guns to head an investigation and hopefully track down the perpetrators.

The Crime Goes Primetime

Not everyone thinks that’s fair. As one commenter who goes by the screen name Leesaann322 wrote in response to a story on The New York Daily News website:

… because they’re celebrities they get FBI checking on it? Where was the FBI when some fool in Ohio stole my debit card information and purchased auto parts to the tune of 700 bucks? Did they help investigate?

Fair or not, the fact is that data breaches and identity theft remain real threats to financial privacy and both the frequency and consequences of these crimes are often underestimated.

As Identity Theft 911 recently pointed out in a review of the movie Identity Thief: “In the film, police also tell (main character Jason) Bateman that 5 to 10 percent of the time, the thief is caught’ — a wildly optimistic statement. In reality, according to (Raul) Vargas, a fraud specialist with Identity Theft 911, fewer than 1 in 1,000 identity thieves are successfully prosecuted. And the crime is far more rampant than this movie shows. In the real world, 20 people are victims of identify theft every minute. That’s a new victim every three seconds.”

If They’re Not Safe …

This breach also raises the question: If Michelle Obama’s credit report and personal information isn’t safe, whose is?

It’s a valid question. But short of freezing your credit reports (which will cost you money and generally isn’t recommended unless you have already been a victim of fraud), it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to stop all breaches.

What you can do, says Adam Levin, chairman of Identity Theft 911 and Credit.com, is become extremely careful (maybe a bit paranoid?) about the personal information you share online and elsewhere and “Adopt a culture of monitoring: get free annual credit reports from from all three credit reporting agencies and monitor your credit standing along with your free credit scores using Credit.com’s Free Credit Report Card; self-monitoring credit and bank accounts; enrolling in transactional monitoring offered by banks, credit unions and credit card providers; and considering the purchase of credit and public records monitoring programs.”

This story may fade away in the news cycle in a few days. But even if it does, the hackers and identity thieves will continue to mine sources online and offline for information they can use to commit fraud. Their next victims may not make the news, but they’ll feel the impact just the same.

Image: U.S. Department of Education

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  • Felicia Johnson

    One thing I am concerned about is that, when apartment hunting, management companies want to do a credit check, so ask for social security numbers. This makes me very uncomfortable because I don’t know how careful they are with the information they get. Personally, I don’t think potential landlords or employers have any business looking at anyone’s credit records.

    • Jodi P

      When apartment hunting, take your own recent copy of your credit report, and block out your SSN, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, and any credit card/loan account numbers. The landlord should determine if you “qualify” for the apartment based on that, at least to let you see the apartment and decide if you want it. If you do want the apartment, only then should the landlord access a “new” credit report for accuracy.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        I like that idea!

  • Pingback: 5 Places Where You Should Never Give Your Social Security Number | Credit.com News + Advice

  • Pingback: 5 Places Where You Should Never Give Your Social Security Number | Best Credit Repair

  • Concerned Citizen

    Just say NO. It is very effective.

  • James McCurdy

    Why do you people and others keep advertising free credit reports, when in fact

    they are not free. The report is self may be free but you have to pay someone on that site in order to get your free report. So in essence it is not free. If it were free you would not have to pay anyone or anything to get it. So all the people who advertise a free credit report
    is indulging in false advertising.

    • Credit.com

      Hi James – Credit.com doesn’t advertise a “free credit report.” We DO, however, offer a free CREDIT SCORE, which may be what you’re confusing with the credit report. We provide the free credit score to help consumers see where they stand without having to pay for the score. For access to your full credit report(s) you’d need to either purchase them through a provider or directly from the credit reporting agencies websites. However, before you pay for a credit report, you should first be sure you claim the one free annual report that every consumer in the US is entitled to under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Everyone gets ONE free credit report (from all three credit reporting agencies) once every 12 months. After that, you either have to wait until your next annual freebie or purchase the report outright — this goes for everyone.

      If you haven’t already done so, here’s a helpful guide that explains exactly how to go about obtaining your free annual reports under the guidelines in the Fair Credit Reporting Act:

      How to Order Your Free Annual Credit Reports — http://www.credit.com/credit-reports/article/2010/08/00017/how-to-order-your-free-annual-credit-report

      It’s also important to point out that when you claim your free reports, your credit score is NOT a part of the report. The bureaus will ask you if you want to purchase your score along with your free report. This is a choice that is left up to the individual consumer but with services like the Credit Report Card, you can obtain your credit score for free — to be clear, it’s the score that’s free in this case. We do not provide or advertise “free credit reports,” just… the score…

      Hope this clears up any confusion!

  • Too True

    They have ours, so what’s the big deal?

  • Kenneth Duncan

    Moochelle Obama is not the person we need to worry about. It is her fraud of a husband. It is his responsability to show that he is qualified to be our president. It is not our responsability to prove that he is not. And he has not proven that he is qualified.

    • elise

      I TOTALLY AGREE! honestly who cares if her credit scores is posted. even if she has identity theft, once she find that out, she can settle it by the clap of her hands with all the powers her husband has. it isn’t like average people like us who get our identity stolen, we have to go through hassles, many stress to prove that it wasn’t us who owes $100,000 ect.

    • matt

      kenneth,

      wtf are you talking about? do you know anything about legislation that the REPULSEICANS have time in and time out blocked or bottled necked about this exact problem? Educate your pathetic self and stop talking out of your duncanhole about things you know shit about. Calling the President of the United States a ‘fraud’ is inaccurate.

      • M

        Kenneth,
        So closed minded and stubborn to accept the truth… or are you just a bigot like a lot of Republicans.

        • M

          Kennth,
          P.S.- The First Lady of the United States name is Michelle Obama.
          Have some respect !

          • Jen

            Amen to that

      • Runnenbare

        You are full of crapp!

  • Usher

    A few years ago I filed a formal complaint with the local P.D. The form on which to write the complaint included a line for my S.S. number. I thought – they have no business having my S.S.N, so rather than leave the space blank (which unnerves local clerk-types) I made up a SSN and filled in the blank. No repercussions ever.

  • whocaresyoudontlistenanyway

    I hope they keep doing it. hey I hope they post the names of addresses of all the owners of the world bank and the puppets really controlling the world right now. So we know who’s door to go knocking on for screwing this place up. They should not be allowed to hide any more than another person can.

  • http://DARSHANARAMIREZ(grandmaramirez)onTwitter Darshana Ramirez

    I worked in a medical office. A law was passed to where health insurance companies were not allowed to continue to print a person’s SSN on their health insurance ID card, well that meant doctors have no need for the SSN (when a person calls in to verify insurance they provide the customer’s health insurance ID number). Anyone working in the medical office knows that they CAN obtain a person’s SSN once they call to verify a person’s benefits over the phone. Health insurance companies obtain the SSN and any address change through the persons employer…That upset me-when I was laid off from Flexi Compras a rent to own company headquartered in Dallas, TX and even though I was not insured for the last year, they still sent the health insurance company (Great-West) my updated address after I was laid-off.

  • Karl Wilson

    The credit issuers are trying to make us all afraid and responsible for what others do in our name or with our identification. If the sellers or creditors get cheated by some forger or fraudulent person, they are responsible for it, not you or I.
    Do not ever buy the idea that your identity can be stolen. People can pose as you and buy stuff …. but you are not responsible for it, ever.

  • No Wong

    No landlord ever “needs” your SSN. They have no right to even run a credit check as they are not extending credit to a tenant. Rental agreements/leases are paid a month _in_advance_ for access to and use of the property. A tenant does not receive access to or the use of a property before they pay for it. This is just as it is with prepaid “credit” cards: your money is applied to the card _in_advance_ of your access to and use of those same funds.

    Furthermore, for the very reason of identity theft, I have an abysmal credit rating yet I’ve never missed a rental payment and always paid cash. By the credit rating standard, I would never be eligible to rent yet by my actual rental record, I am above reproach. Which then should be belived: credit rating or factual record borne out by the testimony of prior landlords?

  • Kenny

    Great. Did it get their attention that this is a PRIORITY issue for “the rest of us.” It’s not like anyone would return a phone call, anyway. Very effective. Thanks! Health Care COSTS and Food Fraud, should be exposed next.

  • Kenny

    Why we live in a Communist System, by and for the highest-ranking government officials, bankers, and Lobbyists. And they are controlled by the people running the FED. The whole democracy thing was a lie, soon to be replaced by a more complete police state, run by uneducated morons, no less.

    • Al

      Kenny, you are confused. Your understanding of “communist system” is abysmal… It is of course a reference to the system which existed in the now defunct USSR: stalinism. And not what was understood by Marx, Lenin, or Trotsky: communism. Actually, it is even worse than stalinism b/c behind the gov. official, bankers, and the Fed, is the REAL POWER, the heads of the mega corporations in the USA, and globally, aka the capitalist class. So, really, the whole system works for the profits needs of the Big capitalists, thus, it is closer to Fascism than stalinism since there was no private property in the USSR, it was all owned by the state, for the benefit of the bureaucracy, and what was left, for the masses. In communism, the economy will be nationalized but under the democratic control of the working (middle) class: the masses!!!
      Yes, I am a Marxist, and since there are still few of us, I am not surprised to hear people confused stalinism with communism and not even consider fascism.

  • NickName Allias

    I AM 100% in agreement with PRIVACY LAW and PERSONAL PROTECTION. I dislike impersonator and hackers. They are a nightmare to the consumer. The article written by Gerri Detweller is well written. So many places ask info that they are NOT entitled to. I think Jodi P suggestion is sounded! Usher may think his suggestion is creative but it may lead to that office the impression that he is a “fraud” if they do verify it for a different reason.

    It’s my opinion that it is always “no consequence” to leave a blank b/c if that apartment administration office (or a dental / doctor office) inquire for your personal info and that requested info is NOT provided by the writer but they wilfully fill-in a phony # then they are in fact “guilty as charge”.

  • http://lol System Crasher

    This is America. A country where the system was built on bases where we all are trapped and can’t do nothing except for to prove who’s best by replying to articles like this.

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