A Briton involved in what is believed to be the largest identity theft case ever has been sentenced to 14 years in prison by a New York judge.
Identity theft fraud is on the rise
Philip Cummings, 35, used his job as a computer helpdesk employee to steal personal information from more than 30,000 unwitting customers.
He passed credit card and other stolen details on to other criminals.
The fraud is believed to have taken place from early 2000 to October 2002. He pleaded guilty in September 2004.
Judge George B Daniels said the case "emphasised how easy it is to wreak havoc on people's financial and personal lives", and added that consequences for individual victims were "almost unimaginable".
Cummings, who worked for Teledata Communications - a New York-based software company which helps lenders access major credit databases - had access to clients' codes and passwords.
He would steal people's credit reports and pass them on to an accomplice, who would sell them on and share the profits with Cummings.
The stolen identities, bought by intermediaries for about $60 per name, were then used to access the victims' bank accounts and use their credit cards.
The criminals would buy expensive goods, including computers and electronic equipment, and resell them to other members of the network.
By changing a customer's personal details, the thieves could even have new credit and ATM cards mailed directly to them.
More than 15,000 unauthorised credit reports were accessed by using a stolen password belonging to Ford Motor Credit, making the scam harder to detect.
The fraud continued even after Cummings left his job and moved from the State of New York to Georgia.
Whenever a company detected illegal downloads affecting one of its customers, it would disable the stolen password and subscriber code.
But Cummings would simply provide the details of another customer so the scam could continue.
Losses have been estimated to be between $50m (£38m) and $100m (£76m).
Cummings, who is still free on bail, must report to prison on 9 March. He is also due to pay compensation to be agreed at a later date.
While Cummings was the lead figure in the case, several of his alleged accomplices are still on trial.
The investigation and trials of other co-defendants are still ongoing.