It took BP nearly a month to notify the roughly 13,000 people who filed compensation claims after the Gulf oil spill that their personal information had been compromised.
A BP employee lost a laptop containing the claimants’ names, Social Security numbers, phone numbers and addresses.
“Somebody’s taken what we call the keys of the kingdom on these 13,000 people.”
Mike Prusinski is a spokesman for LifeLock, an identity theft risk management firm.
“They’re able to sell the data. They’re able to go out there and create brand new identities, open up new credit cards, file for benefits. They can even file tax returns before the rightful owner of this information does, allowing that criminal to get a hold of the refund and leaving the rightful owner answering questions to the IRS as to why there was a double filing.”
Prusinski advises those affected by the security breach to take advantage of the free credit monitoring BP is offering them. But he notes that credit only accounts for about 15% of the problems associated with identify theft. He recommends claimants follow up by conducting their own research as to how best to protect themselves.