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Celebrity hackers target Michelle Obama, Hollywood stars and… you!

It can't be said enough: these days, any of us can become a victim of identity theft, and those in power are even more at risk. Whether they want to or not, many of America's most familiar faces are being forced to realize the reality of what hackers can do.

You heard it from the leader of the free world himself. This week, President Obama told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that "we should not be surprised" at the abilities of hackers to access our personal data. Still, you have to wonder if he was at all surprised when AnnualCreditReport.com (the credit monitoring site that is a joint venture between Equifax, Experian and TransUnion designed to help consumers like you and me to make sure we aren't the victims of identity theft) revealed the credit reports, Social Security numbers and other pieces of information on many noted public figures, including the First Lady. In a bitter chunk of irony, even the tools we use to protect ourselves against identity theft are being targeted by hackers.

For others, specific documents have been posted, including addresses and credit card bills, as well as 30 pages of financial information on the Chief of the LAPD, Charlie Beck.   

Of course, it's unclear how accurate this information is, but the wide range of big-name individuals targeted is eyebrow-raising at the least. The list of victims includes the sort of people who are under round-the-clock security, from celebrities like Jay-Z to politicians like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. Even Robert Mueller was among the attacked, and he's the director of the FBI! Because this was a corporate data breach (where the data was hacked all at one time), there was almost nothing that these people could do to protect themselves, even with their heightened security.

So why them and not me? Actually, you are just as likely to have been breached. As we all know, with celebrity comes exposure. Exposure to paparazzi, exposure to wealth and fame, and exposure to exploitation. But it's not that you haven't been exposed (if you have used AnnualCreditReport.com, you are likely one of the victims), it's just that your case isn't being reported on in the news. Just like Michelle Obama, you are a victim of the same breach, and are at the same risk of having your credit profile abused. 

Digital identity theft is more than a scourge and it affects more than the rich and famous. It's a business, and business is booming. It is the responsibility of corporate America to begin hardening their cyber data security, the duty of our government to take an offensive stance on these attacks, and your responsibility to learn more about identity theft prevention. The sooner you do, the better chance you have of ending up in the news like these celebrities.

John Sileo is a cyber security expert and keynote speaker on privacy, identity and reputation protection. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.

Employees Burned by ID Theft Often Turn to Insider Fraud

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Earlier this week the Feds cracked down on one of the largest credit car theft rings ever. The ring created 7,000 false identities to obtain 25,000 credit cards. Then they ran the scam through real businesses in on the whole thing, in addition to 80 bogus companies using more than 1,800 addresses, according to the FBI.

Through a series of identity theft and fraudulent actions, they were swimming in the hard-earned cash of millions of other people and business owners like Scrooge McDuck did backstrokes in piles of gold.

“This is, as far as we can tell, one of the largest, if not the largest, credit card fraud cases ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said at a news conference earlier this week in Newark, New Jersey. “We have already documented losses of $200 million, and that number could quite well go higher.”

Authorities arrested 18 individuals in connection with the case throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, though they admit there were likely others involved they have yet to apprehend.

This serves as another wake-up call for individual consumers and businesses alike – identity theft prevention should not be taken lightly! Remember when we said inside fraud can be a slow burn that turns a business to ash? Well, the same can be said of credit card fraud.

Everyone from the stay-at-home soccer mom to the small business owner working 80 hours a week to the CEO of a major corporation can be a victim of identity theft.

And since these scams often operate as clusters, if one of your employees just got taken for a ride, chances are others may have too. If multiple employees are put in precarious financial situations, they are much more likely to turn to insider fraud as a way to dig themselves out of a hole – and that doesn’t bode well for you or your company.

John Sileo is an identity theft expert and keynote speaker on internet privacy and risk management. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.