9 Investigates identity theft trend

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - 9 Investigates examined how your personal information may be getting posted online without your knowledge, allowing crooks to steal your identity.

Channel 9’s Vanessa Welch worked with a local cybersecurity expert who was able to find Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and salary information for dozens of Floridians.

The sensitive, personal information was posted where anyone could find it.

It only took a few minutes searching online with security expert Johnathan Singer. He easily found personal information for people all over central Florida.

“These are valid driver's licenses, valid socials, valid home addresses, valid bank accounts,” Singer said as he scrolled through the data. “Wow."

Some of the information Singer discovered belongs to Thomas Lewis, in Cape Canaveral.    

Welch went to Lewis' home to alert him that his personal information was on the Internet and available for anyone wanting to illegally use his data for personal gain.

“Is that your address, your Social Security number?" Welch asked after approaching Lewis at his home. “Is that your driver's license number?”

“The birthdate is right. The Social Security number is right,” Lewis said. “Oh , my gosh. Yes, it's all right. How did they get this stuff?”

Singer was able to find the information online and didn’t have to pay for the data. It was all on a site called Pastebin.

Lewis told Welch he feels violated.

“Someone's stolen me,” he said. “I've been stolen. Yes, it is scary.”

Data breaches at major retailers like Home Depot and Target are becoming more common. Hackers sell the personal information online, but they often post free samples on sites like Pastebin to prove they have more for sale in bulk.

“I think this should be stopped,” Lewis said as he looked at Welch's findings. “This is not just me. There is a lot of people on here.”

You can ask Pastebin to remove your information, but Singer said the second your data hits the Internet, people copy it.

“Once something is on the Internet it tends to be there forever,” Singer said.

Crooks use the identifiers to get credit cards and loans, but catching those behind the scam is tough.

"Millions of identities are being stolen," said Sgt. Brian Neal, of the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.

Neal leads Brevard County’s Identity Theft Task Force. He told 9 Investigates that many thieves use hidden internet protocol addresses to sell personal data.

“When we do identify we have large-scale identity theft, we aggressively pursue that working with our state attorney,” Neal said.

If you find your information posted online, you should immediately lock down your accounts with credit freezes and monitoring.

It’s something Lewis plans to do right away.

“I'm glad you told me about this. I didn't know,” Lewis said.

9 Investigates contacted Pastebin for a comment but never heard back. 9 Investigates also shredded Lewis' information and that of others found online so that data won’t get into the wrong hands.