Identity Theft Unlikely In DOT Laptop Thefts

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The Department of Transportationís Office of Inspector General (OIG) says itís unlikely that any of the personal information on 9,500 pilots stored in two laptops stolen from its agents earlier this year will be used for identity theft. And in determining that welcome news, the OIG may have helped bust up a laptop-theft ring in Miami. In July, a laptop containing the names, Social Security numbers and other personal information on the pilots was taken from a locked car outside a restaurant in Miami. Three months earlier, another OIG laptop went missing in Orlando. To date, according to the OIG, none of the information has been used to commit fraud. In fact, in the case of the Miami laptop, itís more likely to have been used on a teenagerís term paper. After the Miami theft, the OIG, FBI and local police set up a sting operation and caught someone stealing a decoy computer left as a trap. The decoy computer was taken by the thief to a computer store, where a new operating system was installed, overwriting and concealing the data on the computer. After retrieving the decoy, the OIG did a forensic analysis and determined thereíd been no attempt to get at the personal data stored on the hard drive. Subsequent interviews with those involved revealed the existence of a small laptop-theft ring in which the stolen computers were sold on the used market, mainly to high school students. There have been no such breaks in the Orlando case but neither has there been any indication that the information has been accessed and used.