Texas AG Warns Businesses About Security Breaches and Consumer Identity Theft

March 15, 2005

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on March 14 sent an urgent message to all Texas businesses that manage databases with sensitive personal information on citizens to immediately undertake measures to ensure the security of the data.

“Recent events in California, New York and elsewhere involving ChoicePoint, DSW Shoe Warehouse, LexisNexis and other companies that store sensitive data show an alarming breakdown of security that has compromised consumers’ sensitive personal information,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Names, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and financial information of hundreds of thousands of consumers, many in Texas, may have been compromised or even unleashed to identity thieves. This trend must be halted now and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

Attorney General Abbott sent letters to LexisNexis and DSW to underscore his concerns about private consumer information falling into the hands of criminals who could exploit the information and cause widespread ruin of personal finances of Texans. The attorney general also has been in communication with ChoicePoint and California law enforcement officials concerning Texas consumers who were possibly affected by that company’s security breach this year.

In the letters, Abbott asked the companies to provide his office information about the number of Texans possibly affected by these breaches and a description of the information illegally obtained. He stressed the need to fast-track the information gathering process and to notify consumers at the earliest possible opportunity.

The AG’s office is currently working with authorities in other states and with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Secret Service to strengthen efforts of these companies to protect sensitive information and avoid serious breaches in the future. The Texas Legislature is also considering new bills to address this problem.

Texas businesses that have reason to believe their consumer databases may have been jeopardized should immediately contact the Attorney General’s Office with details about the types of information possibly compromised. The toll-free number is (800) 252-8011.

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