A few weeks ago, I learned that I was one of the few hundred thousand victims of Seisint’s carelessness in monitoring the users of their public and private data record aggregation service. Seisint is owned by LexisNexis, which is owned by Reed Elsevier. At first, LexisNexis thought 32,000 individuals were affected. Now the number is believed to be over 300,000.
In the ChoicePoint debacle, crooks fraudulently obtained accounts by posing as legitimate businessmen. In the Seisint case (actually, some of the intrusions were in unrelated parts of LexisNexis), crooks managed to get access to the usernames and passwords of legitimate users. Then again, LexisNexis hasn’t revealed whether the legitimate users might have been in collusion with the crooks, so maybe the scenarios are actually quite similar. I like that one of the services that Seisint allegedly offers to other businesses is “detecting fraud”.
To LexisNexis’s credit, they did more than just send me a letter saying something like, “We screwed up and let bad guys get access to your Social Security Number. Watch your back.” In addition to the letter, they arranged for me and the other 300,000+ unfortunate souls to get a free 12 month subscription to a service from Equifax that allows one to get a 3-in-1 (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) credit report online each month, and to have alerts sent whenever someone accesses your credit record or whenever there is a material change in your credit record.
I finally got around to signing up for it tonight. It was fairly straightforward to do, though I’m glad I didn’t have to pay the $130 annual cost for the program. After signing up, I quickly scanned through the three reports. The reports themselves were fairly well organized and easy to peruse.
As I feared, my address and former address were wrong with TransUnion and my former address was wrong with Equifax. This was a result of a thief fraudulently impersonating me in 2002 and setting up 9 credit accounts using my social security number. Even worse, an account the thief set up with Radio Shack was still on my record with Equifax. TransUnion and Experian had both already removed it.
Fortunately, there are online forms for initiating disputes. The Equifax dispute form was much less well designed than the credit report review pages. After battling with a text edit box that would let me enter only 250 characters, but then not let me delete characters after reaching 250 characters while mid-word, I managed to submit the dispute. The TransUnion form was nicer, but longer and less helpful. Anyways, hopefully I will finally get the mess from 2002 cleared up and not have a new mess initated from the Seisint miscue.