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21 million German bank accounts - yours for only €12m

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Identity thieves who claim they stole details of 21 million German bank accounts are offering to sell the data on the black market for €12 million (US$15.3 million), a German magazine reported over the weekend.

To prove they weren't bluffing, the crooks produced the compact disc containing the names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays account numbers, and bank routing numbers of 1.2 million accounts. Two investigative reporters for WirtschaftsWoche say they obtained the CD during a face-to-face meeting at a hotel in Hamburg with two individuals involved with the theft. The journalists were posing as interested buyers working for a gambling operation.

"We took away with us the first delivery, a CD with 1.2 million accounts, that we couldn't imagine," said one of the editors overseeing the investigation. "In the worst case, three out of four German households would have to be afraid that some money could be taken from their checking account without their authorisation, and perhaps even without their realising it," the magazine stated.

The information was most likely collected from call center employees, the magazine said.

It's Germany's second mega heist of personal information in as many months. In October, T-Mobile admitted losing records belonging to 17 million customers that included their names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, and email addresses.

Peter Schaar, a government official in charge of protecting personal data, said the WirtschaftsWoche report should serve as a wake up call.

"It is essential that personal data cannot be transmitted with the individual's explicit agreement," he told ZDF television. The AFP and IDG News have more here and here. ®

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