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Free Credit report, OfficeMax tied to data fraud investigation



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OfficeMax tied to data fraud investigation

OfficeMax is the Northern California retailer at the heart of a major data-security breach affecting as many as 200,000 Consumers, banking and law-enforcement sources confirmed Monday.
They also said investigators are exploring the possibility that the Russian mob or another Eastern European crime syndicate is responsible for accessing U.S. Consumers' debit-card numbers and selling counterfeit cards on the black market worldwide.
Bill Bonner, an OfficeMax spokesman, said that to the best of his knowledge, no security breach had occurred at any of the Illinois company's Northern California outlets.
"I just can't say that happened," he said.
Still, Bonner declined to comment on whether OfficeMax is cooperating with the FBI and Secret Service on their investigation into the debit-card theft.
"I can't make any comment on any law-enforcement investigations," he said, adding that "we're trying to be responsible and not create any kind of panic."
Four well-placed sources in the banking industry said it's possible that OfficeMax can't yet say with certainty that a breach occurred because it often takes investigators time to piece together a hacker's electronic trail. But they said there's no doubt that OfficeMax has made its computer system available to federal authorities for their investigation.
Numerous banks have replaced customers' debit cards in recent weeks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual. An executive at one leading bank told me he spoke with senior officials at OfficeMax shortly after news of the security breach broke in this column last week.
It appears that a hacker penetrated the computer network of an OfficeMax outlet in Sacramento last fall, sources said. They said the hacker may have gained access to account information for as many as 200,000 customers, potentially downloading people's names, debit-card numbers and secret codes used to validate transactions.
In September 2004, a senior FBI official, Steven Martinez, testified before Congress that the bureau's Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, had noticed an increasing number of cyber crimes involving Eastern Europeans. "The FBI, through the IC3, has observed a continuing increase in both volume and potential impact of cyber crime with significant international elements," he said.
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