A website has posted what appear to be the social security numbers, addresses and even credit reports of celebrities, politicians and others who are in the public eye. NBC's Pete Williams reports.
“Sophisticated” online thieves have stolen information from first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, the FBI director and the Los Angeles police chief as well as several celebrities, including Beyonce, Ashton Kutcher, and Jay Z.
A website — which has an “.su” domain name, representing the old Soviet Union — posted what appears to be their credit reports and other information.
Some of the information, it turns out, is out of date . The website shows FBI director Robert Mueller living in San Francisco, for example. But other data appear to be accurate.
All of this kind of information can be bought online from commercially available websites, experts say, once someone's Social Security number and date of birth are known.
Staff / Reuters
Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Joe Biden, and Ashton Kutcher are pictured in this photo combination. All were apparent victims of recent identity theft.
Among other victims are former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. Other celebrities targeted include Mel Gibson, Kim Kardashian, and Paris Hilton.
The FBI and the Secret Service say they are investigating the website. So is the LAPD, because so many of the celebrities live in Los Angeles, as does the police chief.
The existence of the website was first revealed on Monday, and as of Tuesday morning was still in online. NBC News is not disclosing the website’s address.
There is no indication that any of the information was obtained by computer hacking. Instead, those on the site now join the millions of other Americans who are victims of identity theft. There's no indication so far that anyone has tried to use the information posted on the site to pose as any of those targeted.
Credit report agency Equifax said that reports of some of the individuals were accessed through AnnualCreditReports.com, a website it owns with Experian and TransUnion.
"Equifax can confirm that fraudulent and unauthorized access to four consumer credit reports has occurred through the AnnualCreditReport.com channel, a free public service that allows all consumers to get annual access to their credit report," the company said in a statement.
"Our initial investigation shows the perpetrators had the (personal information) of the individuals whose files were accessed and were therefore able to pass the required authentication measures in place. We have launched a full investigation into this matter and we are also working closely with law enforcement authorities on this matter."
TransUnion said its systems “were not hacked or compromised in any way” but blamed the compromise on “sophisticated perpetrators.”
None of the people targeted by the website have yet come forward to comment on the accuracy of the information exposed. Representatives of those targeted either declined to comment on the accuracy of the information that was posted, or they did not return messages seeking comment, according to the Associated Press.
Stealing the personal information of celebrities isn’t new. More than a decade ago a California man masquerading as Tiger Woods used the golfing great’s name and Social Security number to buy big-screen televisions, stereos and other goods. Anthony Lemar Taylor was sentenced to 200 years in prison.