ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- The United States Secret Service is investigating a web page containing social security numbers, dates of birth, and other private information belonging to 200 St. Louis area residents.
The page, a sort of chat room for criminals, was stumbled upon by a viewer researching her own social security number. She had seen a recent story Fox 2 reported about stolen social security numbers being used to file bogus tax returns.
The woman didn’t want her identity revealed, but provided us with a link to the page, where we found dozens of people’s personal information. Most of the victims are women.
“Social security numbers and dates of birth are very valuable information and a lot of criminals would pay a lot of money to use that information and steal your identity,” Secret Service Agent Doug Roberts said.
Another of the 200 people listed on the page is Lisa Ritz. We contacted her by dialing the phone number listed on the site. She says she had an immediate reaction to seeing her personal information laid out among the others.
“To go home and change all my passwords and my bank accounts,” she said.
Ritz says she is already on the careful side when it comes to monitoring things like her credit report, a place where foul play with her social security number would be most likely to show up.
“I’m very cautions, she says. “I only have two credit cards. I’m careful where I use them. I change my password often. I do everything they tell you to do.”
The bits of trouble she has experienced are familiar to thousands of St. Louis area shoppers.
“They just had the other hack like at Target and Schnucks and my credit cards had to be changed for those.”
There were no credit cards of any type listed on this mystery web page. But Special Agent Roberts says, in a way, this is much worse.
“When you see social security numbers and their dates of birth and their names and addresses, that’s the bad stuff. I really worry about that stuff,” he says.
He worries because instead of just using a stolen credit card, someone with this information can start their own account without the knowledge of the victim.
“Most of the information you would use to obtain credit, credit cards, obtain a loan, purchase something. All that stuff would be line of credit information you would use.”
And it’s information that may have traveled halfway around the world. The Secret Service says there are indications the bogus site in question may have roots in Russia. If that’s the case, they may need the cooperation of a foreign government to get the numbers removed from the internet.
“We’re working with them. The Russian authorities do work with us. There are other countries that do work with us. It’s just more difficult,” he told us.
This grouping of information is fairly large, and the people are all from the St. Louis area. It leads Roberts to believe a business of some sort in the St. Louis area may have had its systems hacked. Agents have already begun contacting people on the list in an effort to find things in common that may lead them to the information’s source.
Ritz, while looking over the site upon which her personal information is laid out, discovered one such common threat. Her cousin’s information was there, too.
“Yeah,” she said with a chuckle, “I’ll give her a call when I’m done.”
The Secret Service says keeping a close eye on your credit reports is the best way to make sure you identity has not been stolen.
You are entitled to FREE access to your credit reports from all three reporting agencies once a year. To get that information, go here: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
The Secret Service has information for identity theft and fraud victims here: http://www.secretservice.gov/fraud_creditcard.shtml
For more information on how to handle possible identity theft, go here: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft