Consultant Sentenced To 5 Years In Prison For Stealing Customer Information

A business software consultant who stole identifying information on 110,000 customers from an insurance company was caught trying to sell the information to an undercover Secret Service agent.

Sharon Gaudin, Contributor

July 11, 2007

2 Min Read

A business software consultant who stole identifying information on more than 110,000 people from the insurance company he was working for was sentenced this week to five years in federal prison.

Binyamin Schwartz, 28, of Oak Park, Mich., was sentenced to 60 months on charges of identity theft, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud, and wire fraud. According to a report from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Schwartz admitted to investigators that he stole Social Security numbers and related information from two databases within Wisconsin-based Sentry Insurance while he was working as a consultant there, developing business software.

"Identity theft has become a serious public concern because of the ease with which it can be accomplished and because of its insidious nature," said U.S. Attorney Craig Morford in a written statement. "The crime of identity theft often goes undetected until great harm has been done. Even though the financial losses may be [borne] ultimately by financial institutions, identity theft remains a source of considerable anxiety for its individual victims, particularly those who may be financially unsophisticated or living on fixed incomes and for which even temporary financial reversals are threatening."

The government reported that Schwartz sold information on about 70 customers to one buyer before he was caught when attempting to sell the stolen information to an undercover Secret Service agent. Schwartz initially offered to sell the names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth for 36,000 people for $25,000 in cash to the agent on June 6, 2006. He negotiated the sale of the information over the Internet using an assumed identity.

On June 22, 2006, Schwartz flew to Nashville, Tenn., from Detroit to exchange the information for the payment. Once in Nashville, he was arrested by Secret Service agents. At the time of his arrest, Schwartz had with him another database containing the same type of information for approximately 75,000 more people, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"Fortunately, in this case the United States Secret Service recovered the personal information for most of these individual victims before Mr. Schwartz could sell that information to others and the corporate victim in this case acted swiftly to notify the affected individuals so that the risk of harm could be minimized," said Morford. "Individuals who are tempted to steal and sell personal identification information should know that they will be caught and held accountable for their crimes."

A study by the Secret Service showed that insider attacks on computers and networks aren't just a spur-of-the-moment phenomenon. Most attacks are planned in advance. At the time of the incident, 59% were former employees or contractors, while 41% were still on the company clock, and 86% were employed in technical positions.

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