Chitwood & Harley, LLP, an Atlanta-based class action law firm, is investigating bringing a class action against ChoicePoint, Inc. under the Fair Credit Reporting Act or applicable state laws. The firm is interested in interviewing all persons who received notification from ChoicePoint this year that their personal data may have been accessed by unauthorized individuals or that they should check their credit report.
On Feb. 14, 2005, Choicepoint, Inc. acknowledged publicly that the security of its database of personal records was breached in October, 2004. As a result, identity thieves may have accessed the personal profiles of thousands of individuals. The Alpharetta, Georgia-based company maintains personal profiles of U.S. consumers and purportedly has billions of records on individuals and businesses. These profiles include Social Security numbers, credit histories, criminal records, sex-offender lists, and/or other highly sensitive material compiled by Choicepoint. According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, identity theft is the country's fastest-growing crime, and more than 9.9 million Americans were victims in 2003. According to a Los Angeles County sheriff's detective, at least 750 people have been defrauded in this one instance.
Choicepoint sells the data it compiles to businesses and government agencies. The Company has admitted to knowing of the breach since October but did not immediately disclose this serious threat to the public, including the individuals whose personal profiles were released. The Company has claimed that it failed to disclose the breach upon the request of authorities who feared disclosure may hamper an investigation into the matter. However, between the time Choicepoint became aware of the problem and the time it disclosed the breach, certain officers of the Company sold Choicepoint common stock while in possession of nonpublic information, reaping a considerable financial benefit for themselves.
The public announcement followed shortly after the Company's mailing of warning letters or emails to tens of thousands of California consumers allegedly notifying them of the breach and advising them to check their credit reports. According to news reports, the letters offer details on how to spot fraud but no additional information about the incident or what information may have actually been released. Initially, California residents were the only Americans notified of the breach because California has a unique law requiring companies that do business with residents to warn them when the security of their computer data has been compromised.
As of February 17, 2005, the Company estimated that the records of almost 145,000 consumers were improperly released. Beyond the warning letters sent to California consumers, the Company has stated publicly that another 110,000 people outside of California will receive notice soon. This may, however, be just the tip of the iceberg. According to a Wall Street Journal article published on February 18, 2005, investigators believe that the personal data of as many as 400,000 individuals may have been compromised.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a consumer reporting agency has a duty to protect the consumer reports it compiles from being improperly released to a third party. The Act specifically defines those situations in which a consumer report may be released to a third party and imposes upon consumer reporting agencies a duty to have in place reasonable measures designed to limit the furnishing of reports to purposes permitted under the Act. Moreover, consumers whose consumer reports have been improperly furnished to third parties by a consumer reporting agency may bring a private lawsuit against the agency to recover for a variety of damages resulting from that improper release.
If you have recently received a letter from Choicepoint advising you that you should check your credit report, you may have a claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act or state law. If you would like to hear from an attorney to discuss whether you have a claim and what your options are, please fill in our form on the right to submit your complaint. You may also contact Lauren S. Antonino, Esq. at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-873-3999, ext 6888 to discuss your options.