Identity Theft Examples (2024): The 5 Worst Attacks Ever

By Tibor Moes / Updated: January 2024

Identity Theft Examples (2023): The 6 Worst Attacks Ever


Identity theft, a pervasive and potentially devastating issue, affects millions globally, leading to financial loss and personal privacy breaches.

In this article, we explore five of the most notorious identity theft attacks in history, providing detailed insights and lessons learned from each incident.


Identity theft involves unauthorized access to an individual’s personal information, often leading to financial loss and privacy violations.

  • ChoicePoint Incident (2004): A data security breach at ChoicePoint compromised the personal information of about 163,000 individuals. ChoicePoint paid $15 million in penalties and consumer redress for violating privacy rights.
  • Albert Gonzalez Case (2005-2007): Gonzalez and his team stole over 90 million credit and debit card numbers, including 45.6 million from TJX Companies. The financial impact, particularly on TJX, was estimated at around $200 million.
  • Anthem Inc. Breach (2015): This breach potentially exposed the personal information of 78.8 million people. Anthem settled the HIPAA violations for $16 million, marking a significant financial repercussion.
  • Equifax Breach (2017): About 147 million people had their personal data exposed in the Equifax breach. This incident highlighted the vulnerability of financial information on a massive scale.
  • Marriott International Breach (2018): Marriott’s cybersecurity crisis initially suggested 500 million guests were affected, later revised to 383 million records. This breach underscored the importance of data security in the hospitality industry.

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Identity Theft Examples

1. The ChoicePoint Incident (2004): A Massive Breach of Personal Data

In 2004, a significant breach occurred at ChoicePoint, a company specializing in the management of personal information. This incident was not just a minor glitch in data security; it was a colossal mishap that compromised the personal details of approximately 163,000 individuals. Imagine, for a moment, the gravity of this situation – personal information of thousands, exposed to unauthorized eyes.

The financial consequences for ChoicePoint were severe. In an effort to rectify the situation and settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violating consumers’ privacy rights, ChoicePoint had to pay a staggering $10 million in civil penalties, coupled with an additional $5 million for consumer redress.

This event was a harsh reminder of the responsibilities that come with handling sensitive data and the severe repercussions of failing to protect it.

2. Albert Gonzalez Case (2005-2007): A Hacking Spree of Epic Proportions

Moving forward to the period between 2005 and 2007, we encounter the notorious case of Albert Gonzalez and his team. Their cybercriminal activities were nothing short of extraordinary in their scope and impact.

The team, led by Gonzalez, was responsible for the theft of over 90 million credit and debit card numbers from various companies. To put this into perspective, that’s nearly the population of Germany and Austria combined, all having their card details stolen.

The most significant hit was taken by TJX Companies, from which a jaw-dropping 45.6 million card numbers were stolen. The financial ramifications of this breach were immense, with the TJX Companies breach alone estimated to have caused around $200 million in damages.

This case stands as a stark example of the enormous financial and personal impacts that can result from a single point of failure in data security.

3. Anthem Inc. Breach (2015): A Health Data Catastrophe

The year 2015 witnessed one of the most significant breaches in the healthcare sector when Anthem Inc., a prominent health insurance company, faced a cyberattack.

This breach was not just a minor leak; it potentially exposed the personal information of about 78.8 million people. That’s akin to revealing the private data of nearly a quarter of the United States population.

The magnitude of this breach was reflected in the settlement that Anthem had to reach with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

To resolve violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules related to the breach, Anthem agreed to pay a record $16 million.

This incident underscores the vital importance of safeguarding health data, a type of information that is both extremely personal and sensitive.

4. Equifax Breach (2017): A Credit Reporting Cataclysm

Fast forward to 2017, and we encounter the infamous Equifax breach. Equifax, one of the major credit reporting agencies, experienced a massive breach that laid bare the personal data of approximately 147 million people.

To understand the scale of this, picture nearly half the population of the United States having their sensitive data like social security numbers, birth dates, and addresses, exposed to unknown entities.

This breach was a startling reminder of the vulnerability of personal financial information and the catastrophic consequences of failing to protect it.

The Equifax incident highlighted the need for robust security measures in protecting sensitive consumer data and the far-reaching impacts such security lapses can have on individuals and the economy.

5. Marriott International Breach (2018): A Hospitality Industry Nightmare

In 2018, the hospitality giant Marriott International faced a cybersecurity crisis of enormous proportions. Initially, the company disclosed that the breach might have impacted up to 500 million guests – a figure staggering enough to send shockwaves across the global hospitality industry. This number alone represented a substantial portion of the world’s population and put a spotlight on the vast amount of data hotels accumulate.

Upon further investigation, Marriott revised this figure to approximately 383 million records. While this number was lower than the initial estimate, it still represented a colossal breach, affecting millions of people who had entrusted their personal information to Marriott. The scale of this breach was not just a concern for those directly affected but also served as a harrowing reminder to the entire hospitality industry about the critical need for robust data security measures.

This incident demonstrated the far-reaching consequences of cybersecurity lapses in an industry that relies heavily on consumer trust. It highlighted the immense responsibility businesses have in protecting the personal and sensitive information of their customers, and the potentially devastating impact when that trust is breached.


The cases of ChoicePoint, Albert Gonzalez, Anthem Inc., Equifax, and Marriott International vividly illustrate the immense risks and consequences of identity theft. These incidents, affecting millions of individuals and resulting in significant financial losses, underscore the vital importance of robust data protection measures. They serve as a stark reminder that the security of personal information must be a top priority for all organizations.

In light of these examples, the importance of individual cybersecurity measures, particularly investing in reliable antivirus software, cannot be overstated. For users of Windows 11, choosing antivirus solutions from trusted brands like Norton, Avast, TotalAV, Bitdefender, McAfee, Panda, or Avira is a crucial step in safeguarding personal information.

These software solutions provide essential protection against various forms of cyber threats, including those that lead to identity theft. By investing in such security measures, individuals can significantly reduce their vulnerability to cyberattacks and ensure their personal and financial information remains secure.




Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.