RealTime IT News

Verizon Sues HP Pretexters

May the lawsuits begin.

While Hewlett-Packard executives spent Thursday explaining to Congress its role in a leak probe gone out of control, Verizon Wireless was in court suing unnamed data brokers it said were involved in the scandal.

The lawsuit, filed in New Jersey federal court, charges 20 unnamed defendants -- identified only as Jane and John Doe I through XX -- used pretexting to gain access to the Verizon Wireless account of a director of the HP board.

The No. 2 wireless carrier wants to subpoena a number of those involved in the spy case to learn the identities of the data brokers while also forbidding future use of pretexting, as well as unspecified monetary damages.

The 20 defendants "used fraud, trickery and deceit to access confidential customer information," according to the court papers.

In the complaint, Verizon said one or more of the defendants gained, or attempted to gain, access to the phone records of an HP director and his wife in May 2005 and in January and February 2006.

The carrier requested the court issue subpoenas to Bryan Wagner of Littleton, Colo.; Charles Kelly of Villa Rica, Ga., Cassandra Selvage of Dade City, Fla.; Darren Brost of Austin, Texas; and Valerie Preston of Cooper City, Fla., investigators hired by HP or a subcontractor.

They invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, refusing to testify during HP's hearings before Congress yesterday.

Verizon wants to know about their attempts to gain access to online accounts, communications with HP on any Verizon customer and any reports on the results of those investigations.

The carrier also requested subpoenas for Ron DeLia, the Boston-area private investigator who reportedly was contacted by HP to assist the leak probe, as well as Action Research Group and Joseph and Matthew DePante of Melbourne, Fla.

In addition, Verizon requested that three ISPs -- Hughes Network Systems, Cogent Communications and Sterling Security Research -- provide records on IP addresses used during 2005 and 2006, according to records filed.

The carrier also hopes another ISP, United Online, can provide information on a Juno user, gkey@juno.com. The user sent e-mail to verizonwireless.com in 2005 with subjects such as "Verizon Wireless", "account," and "phone records," according to the complaint.

On May 17, 2005, a female caller posing as a Verizon employee tried to access the online account of an HP director, but was unsuccessful, according to the complaint.

Three days later, a caller was able to convince customer service to disable text messages to the director's cell phone.

Minutes later, Verizon said, another caller gained access to the HP director's online account, changing both the e-mail address and user ID associated with the account.

In February and March this year, callers made at least three attempts to access the phone account used by the HP director's wife, according to Verizon.

The carrier said a caller provided a Social Security number. On the final pretext attempt, the caller hung up after being refused access.

This isn't the first lawsuit Verizon brought against data brokers.

In January, the carrier sued the owners of the LocateCell.com Web site, which Verizon said used pretexting to attempt to gain the records of wireless users.

AT&T recently sued 25 "John Doe" defendants who sold unauthorized phone records.

Sprint Nextel also took a Florida pretexter to court earlier this year.