Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Here’s an important warning for folks who swap music files and downloads using peer-to-peer file sharing software – don’t store sensitive documents on your computer. Identity thieves may be able to see them.

A Seattle man was arrested this week on identity theft charges after he alleged used P-to-P networks to search for victims who had accidentally configured their software to share sensitive documents. Federal prosecutors claim he searched hard drives for federal income tax returns, student financial aid applications and credit reports that had been stored electronically. He then allegedly used the information to apply for credit cards in the names of more than 80 victims and ultimately bought $3,000 worth of merchandise that he resold for cash.

In an interview with PC World, an expert said it’s easy for unsophisticated users to accidentally share sensitive information via P-to-P networks. During a press conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle, a computer expert showed — in real time — searches being conducted. According to a Seattle Times report, some searchers were hunting for files that contained terms such as "password" and "medical billing."

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