Crook Sells Access to Data Tool Used by Private Investigators

TransUnion's TLO can be used to lookup a person's SSN and other sensitive information.
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A member of a fraud-focused community on Telegram is advertising access to TLO, a data tool typically used by private investigators to obtain sensitive information on targets, including their Social Security Number (SSN), date of birth, and physical address history.

“This is very powerful information that can help professionals with fraud investigations. Or can help criminals commit fraud as well as a variety of other crimes,” Igor Ostrovskiy, a New York based private investigator with Ostro Intelligence, said when Motherboard alerted him to the data access.


TLO is run by credit reporting giant TransUnion. TransUnion markets the tool to skip tracers—people tasked with tracking down other people, perhaps for skipping bail—as well as law enforcement.

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“Find likely locations, telephones, assets, liens, bankruptcies, fraud history and much more,” TLO’s website reads. The website adds that SSN and date of birth results are only available to “licensed investigators, repossession agents, bail bonds, process servers.”

The listing on Telegram explicitly advertises access to SSN lookups. The seller did not respond to a request for comment and did not list a price for the service. Ostrovskiy said it costs him less than $5 to perform a TLO search himself when he is working on an investigation.

TransUnion did not respond to a request for comment.

“Having this data out in the hands of criminals will lead to the data being resold multiple times and with criminals using it for fraud, including identity theft,” Ostrovskiy added.

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