How Experian Sold Consumer Data To Popular ID Theft Service

from the oops dept

Brian Krebs, who continues to be a one-man reporting juggernaut when it comes to revealing the practices of online criminals, has posted quite the story about how information giant Experian apparently sold a ton of consumer data to an ID theft services,, run out of Vietnam by a guy named Hieu Minh Ngo. Ngo was just arrested, after a grand jury indictment, and the feds luring him out of Vietnam to Guam over a supposed business deal. However, more interesting is the background here, in which Ngo was apparently able to buy access to a ton of consumer data that originated from U.S. Info Search. How he got it, and Experian’s involvement, was a bit complex.

Basically, U.S. Info Search had an information sharing deal with a company called Court Ventures — who was purchased by Experian in early 2012. The deal between USIS and Court Ventures was that both parties could sell their data, but in both cases, they’re supposed to only sell it to registered US businesses. Apparently Court Ventures wasn’t all that careful about that requirement. It appears that Ngo convinced Court Ventures that he worked for a US-based private investigator, and that was enough for Court Ventures. Krebs spoke to the CEO of U.S. Info Search, Marc Martin, who provided more info, which he found out after hearing about all this from the Secret Service:

While the private investigator ruse may have gotten the fraudsters past Experian and/or CourtVentures’ screening process, according to Martin there were other signs that should have alerted Experian to potential fraud associated with the account. For example, Martin said the Secret Service told him that the alleged proprietor of had paid Experian for his monthly data access charges using wire transfers sent from Singapore.

“The issue in my mind was the fact that this went on for almost a year after Experian did their due diligence and purchased” Court Ventures, Martin said. “Why didn’t they question cash wires coming in every month? Experian portrays themselves as the databreach experts, and they sell identity theft protection services. How this could go on without them detecting it I don’t know. Our agreement with them was that our information was to be used for fraud prevention and ID verification, and was only to be sold to licensed and credentialed U.S. businesses, not to someone overseas.”

There’s a lot more in Krebs’ piece (go read it), about what happened here (as well as more info on Ngo). But the open question is whether or not the FTC might also go after Experian for allowing this to happen. It also raises questions about how well the giant data brokers protect consumer info (answer to nearly all of those questions: they don’t). Furthermore, the piece details how the FTC has been taking an increasing interest in these kinds of issues, but hasn’t really done much for many years, and how that’s more or less allowed these kinds of scams to happen with frightening regularity.

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Companies: court ventures, experian,, us info search

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Comments on “How Experian Sold Consumer Data To Popular ID Theft Service”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Curious about ID theft protection

So, I saw this part:

“Experian portrays themselves as the databreach experts, and they sell identity theft protection services.”

And I wondered – what is this theft protection – it is some sort of insurance policy where they reimburse up to some amount in “damages” resulting from ID theft? Do they actually have any exposure here, or is it completely reinsured by another entity? If the latter, perhaps this was all intentional – knowing that by giving away information to ID thieves, there would be a higher demand for this service, which they would take a cut of profits, and zero risk… one has to wonder.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Curious about ID theft protection

The outline of their ID theft protection is here:

They’re much like most other ID theft protection services, but they do include a $1,000,000 ID theft insurance policy. I don’t know the details about that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Curious about ID theft protection

Aha, there’s a footnote there:

2: Identity theft insurance is underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc.

Which suggests that most, or all of the risk is actually underwritten by a reinsurer.

Something tells me that reinsurer will be increasing their premiums and/or dropping Experian entirely if they believe they’re actually contributing to the problem 😉

Convert hearsay to fact says:

So I've got a 70+ year old serial fraudster

Who I’m trying to confirm a hearsay to an actionable fact because public law officials are like most people – lazy.

The hearsay – He has 2 Social Security numbers. Claims he applied for a replacement card and got a new one instead.

Problem for me is if I want to dig this stuff up as a private citizen I don’t see a way to do that without violating the thicket of privacy laws surrounding SS numbers.

Any solutions where I’m honest to catch the dishonest? Asking the ‘proper authorities’ appear to be useless – he’s perjured himself in court, owes over a million in back state taxes and is in contempt of court and yet no action seems to be happening.

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