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9/17/2009
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New Free Web Service Confirms Theft Of Your Identity

Web-based search service lets individuals check -- in detail -- whether their personal information has been compromised

A new, free Web-based search service that combs real identity-theft trafficking forums used by criminals lets consumers proactively check if they are a victim of identity theft.

The StolenID Search site is a partnership between ID theft prevention firm TrustedID and U.K.-based Lucid Intelligence, a firm founded by two former Scotland Yard investigators that maintains a massive database of more than 120 million compromised personal accounts. In July Lucid announced plans to launch identity theft search services using the database, which was built from a collection of stolen identity information from law enforcement databases and from volunteers who monitor criminal ID theft marketplaces.

TrustedID says the new service is aimed at U.S. users, while Lucid's original announcement was targeted at users in its native U.K. TrustedID in 2007 temporarily launched a similar identity theft search service of its own, which just told users whether they were victims or not, and didn't provide much detail, a TrustedID spokesperson says. That service was later discontinued, and the new StolenID is an enhanced version, according to the spokesperson.

With the new service, to research whether they're at risk of ID theft using TrustedID and Lucid's StolenID Search service, users type in their names and email addresses for an initial search. They are prompted for more information if there's a match -- as well as verification that they are who they say they are -- to drill down into more detail about which of their personal information is making the rounds on the black market.

"This is the first time Americans have direct access to information that's out there that indicates their information has been compromised," says Lyn Chitow Oakes, chief marketing officer for TrustedID, which launched StolenID Search yesterday. "This tells you that someone is trying to buy your stolen information from a thief who's trying to sell it. Whether or not they are successful in using that information, we don't know."

Oakes says the search encompasses everything from a victim's name, address, and phone number to secret passwords, financial information, health insurance data, credit cards, and bank account numbers.

For $15, the service offers more specific details on how the data was compromised, where it came from, as well as instructions on what to do next as a victim.

But the free ID theft search service has stirred a bit of controversy among security experts. "I am a little suspicious of services that sell based on people's fears. ID theft is mostly about credit cards, and those are backed by Visa and MasterCard guarantees that limit your losses," says Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst for IT-Harvest. "People should look at these ID theft services and ask themselves, 'What would I do if this service reported that my identity had been stolen?' And then they should act on that without bothering to subscribe. I would rather pay for a credit lock with the big three credit companies [than this]."

Stiennon also questions the massive database held by Lucid Intelligence, which initially raised privacy concerns within the British government when the company first launched. "Why have they accumulated that?" he said.

More than 95 percent of the records in Lucid's database are those of U.S. residents.

ID theft protection firms such as TrustedID typically charge around $99 a year for an individual, or $180 per year for a family, TrustedID's Oakes says. "There's no other way to get this information other than signing up for one of these services," she says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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