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Privacy Protectors Spotlight: Tom O’Malley

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Last Modified Date: Jun 28, 2024

In the third installment of our Privacy Protectors Spotlight, we are happy to feature Tom O’Malley, a leading figure in the fight against identity theft. Tom is a retired state (1980-1985) and federal prosecutor (1986-2019) who specialized in the investigation and prosecution of cybercrime, including computer hacking, identity theft, and identity fraud (2009-2019). He also is a data breach victim and has leveraged his extensive legal background and experience to educate and empower individuals to protect their personal information. As the founder of FrozenPii.com, Tom has dedicated his post-retirement career to providing free and accessible tools to safeguard against identity fraud.

Background

Tom started his federal public service career as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Southern District of Florida (1986-2005). After 19 years in the USAO-SDFLA, he joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of North Carolina, where he worked from 2005 to 2019.

Prior to his federal work, Tom was a state prosecutor in Palm Beach County, Florida, for five years. He departed the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office as the Deputy Chief of the Homicide Division.

From 2009 to 2019, Tom was a Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) and an Identity Fraud prosecutor. He specialized in the investigation and prosecution of criminals engaged in cybercrime, intellectual property, and identity fraud offenses.

Tom Becomes a Data Breach Victim

In 2015 and 2017, Tom became a victim of two mega data breaches. His personal victim experience was the impetus for his mission of identity self-protection.

In 2015, Tom and 21.5 million other data breach victims had their classified “personally identifiable information” (PII) stolen from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The OPM data breach prompted him to build Frozen Pii, a website of resources to help his family, friends, and colleagues prevent their stolen digital identities from being used by criminals to get fraudulent new-account credit cards and loans.

In 2017, Tom and 145 million other data breach victims had their personally identifiable information stolen from Equifax, one of the three major nationwide credit reporting agencies.

Founding Frozen Pii

Based on Tom’s experience, he knew that criminals use new-account identity fraud to get new loans and credit accounts using stolen identities from data breaches. This ID fraud often results in false new loan/credit information being added to victims’ credit reports, causing financial and emotional harm.

Tom also knew that new-account identity fraud can be prevented simply by placing “security credit freezes” on consumer credit reports maintained and sold by Experian, Equifax, TransUnion, and other credit reporting agencies (CRAs). Once expensive and difficult to do, the Equifax data breach spurred Congress to require CRAs to make it free and easy for people to freeze and unfreeze their credit reports to prevent new loan/credit account identity fraud.

Despite the new federal law, it was still not easy for consumers to find security credit freeze information and links to initiate credit freezes.

With the new security freeze law in place, Tom decided it was time to pivot from prosecuting criminals to helping people protect themselves from ID fraud.

Launching Frozen Pii, LLC

After 37 years of public service, Tom retired from the U.S. Department of Justice in January 2019. He started Frozen Pii, LLC. one month later as a public-service mission dedicated to raising consumer awareness about free identity theft protection services provided by law and to give people a trusted gateway to verified links for free annual credit reports, free security credit freezes/unfreezes, and free identity theft help.

Tom’s core mission is to help make it easy for people to take control of their identity for free, before or after criminals attempt to use their stolen identities to commit identity fraud. He believes that people should not be required to pay for a lifetime of credit monitoring services to a multi-billion-dollar industry that he describes as the “Identity Theft Protection Racket.” Tom criticizes these services for being expensive and perpetuating a cycle where consumers pay continuously for protection that should be accessible and straightforward. Instead of relying on these costly services, Tom advocates for empowering individuals to use free credit freezes, which can more effectively prevent new-account identity fraud without ongoing costs.

The Importance of Credit Freezes

When you freeze your credit, you restrict access to your credit report to only authorized parties. A credit freeze prohibits credit reporting agencies from releasing your credit reports to new lenders without your express authorization. Without access to your credit reports, responsible lenders will not give criminals fraudulent loans and credit cards in your name.

Federal law also allows parents and guardians to order free “security credit freezes” for children under 16 years of age. Tom has emphasized how extremely important it is to freeze a child’s credit, which can be impacted if a child’s social security number becomes linked with a synthetic identity. By freezing their children’s credit, parents can protect their credit scores from being ruined before they become adults. When a parent orders a child credit freeze, credit reporting agencies are legally required to create and freeze a minor child’s credit file. A child credit freeze prohibits credit reporting agencies from releasing a child’s frozen credit reports to lenders. Without credit report access, responsible lenders will not give criminals fraudulent loans and credit cards using your child’s identity.

Frozen Pii Services

Today, Frozen Pii serves as a gateway to help consumers protect their financial identity by exercising their legal right to:

  1. Get free credit reports
  2. Dispute and correct credit-report errors
  3. Freeze and unfreeze credit reports (including those of children)
  4. Claim and control their government identity with the Social Security Administration, the United States Postal Service, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Frozen Pii’s credit freeze links include not only the Big-3 credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, & TransUnion), but also three additional freezes for Innovis (a privately-held national CRA), NCTUE (utilities, TV, phone service), and ChexSystems (bank accounts), and a link to the CFPB 2023 report listing dozens of specialty CRAs. Frozen Pii also provides consumers with links to free help from the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center and the Federal Trade Commission.

Pro Bono Work and Consulting

Tom is available for pro bono training on consumer identity security to government agencies, law enforcement groups, citizen outreach programs, educational institutions, NGOs, and civic and community organizations. To support this pro bono work, Tom offers paid consulting services for private companies.

Tom has worked with the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), a non-profit organization established to empower and guide consumers, victims, businesses, and governments to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise and crime. Tom assists the ITRC in providing victims with free help with security credit freezes through a link to FrozenPii.com on the ITRC’s website.

Recent Recognition

Most recently, in February 2024, Tom was the recipient of decodingCyber’s February 2024 One2Watch Cyber Vanguard Award. You can read his interview following the award here.

Conclusion

Tom O’Malley’s career and dedication to protecting personal identities make him a standout figure in the fight against identity theft. His efforts have empowered countless individuals to take control of their identities and protect themselves from the pervasive threat of identity fraud. Tom’s unwavering commitment to public service and advocacy embodies the spirit of the Privacy Protectors Spotlight.

Stay Connected

For more insights and updates on identity protection, follow Tom O’Malley on LinkedIn, where he shares scam alerts, cybersecurity news, data breach notifications, and identity protection tips. To learn more about Frozen Pii and its mission, listen to Tom’s podcast interview with COO James Lee and CEO Eva Velasquez of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

How to Get Involved

If you’d like to help with Frozen Pii’s mission, you can contact Tom for information about virtual training for government agencies, civic organizations, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations, customized company training, speaking engagements, podcasts, consulting, partnerships, and sponsorships.

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