Celebrity 'Doxers' Return, with Dangerous Results
Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
CREDIT: David Shankbone/Creative Commons
The celebrity "doxers" are back.
The "Exposed" website has appeared at a new domain name, this time spilling the personal details of 15 more notable Americans, including Lady GaGa, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, George Clooney, Oprah and former President George W. Bush.
The site first appeared at a Russian domain name last month, but disappeared after a week in which about 30 other celebrities and politicians, including Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, had their personal details posted.
The risk of identity theft greatly increases for all "exposed" celebrities, but an even greater personal danger was revealed today (April 3) as the Los Angeles residence of hip-hop impresario Sean "P. Diddy" Combs was apparently "swatted" after Combs' personal details were posted on the site.
Combs' credit report has since been taken down from the site, and no Los Angeles address appears on Combs' introductory page.
"Swatting" involves making a prank call to 911 reporting a violent ongoing incident at a certain location, which guarantees a rapid and armed police response.
Software tools can make it seem that the call originates at the same location, and police often approach the premises under the assumption that active shooters are present.
Hotel heiress and reality-TV star Paris Hilton was also swatted about 10 days after her address appeared on the site last month, but in that instance the cause-and-effect was less clear-cut.
Swatting celebrities has become commonplace in Southern California. In March, a 12-year-old boy admitted to "swatting" actor Ashton Kutcher last fall.
Combs' credit report may be offline, but plenty of other celebrities' credit reports are still up, along with their Social Security numbers and home addresses.
(No credit report was provided for Bush, whose extended family was the victim of an email account break-in in February.)
Names, birth dates, current addresses and Social Security numbers are all it takes to run a credit report on anyone — and, often, all it takes to steal their identities.
Former Def Jam records founder Russell Simmons may already have had his identity stolen. His exposed credit report reveals that in January, he alerted the credit-reporting agency Experian that "my identity may have been used without my consent to fraudulently obtain goods or services."
The credit alert asks Experian to call Simmons before extending further credit in his name, and adds that the alert will continue for seven years.
Not surprisingly, wealthy celebrities often have pretty good credit scores. Former model and current reality-TV queen Tyra Banks, for example, has a perfect score of 840.
Sports stars don't do as well. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick seems to still owe money on rent and a loan. Other bad debts appear to have been discharged by Vick's 2008 bankruptcy filing, which coincided with a prison term for illegal dogfighting.
Former NBA star and recently self-appointed diplomat Dennis Rodman owes child support and credit-card payments; some of his debts have been assigned to collection agencies.
There's only one real surprise among all the data: A recent residence listed for Oprah Winfrey is a nondescript building on a commercial street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with a laundromat on the ground floor.
But the swattings of Combs and Hilton demonstrate how serious publishing the addresses of celebrities can be.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles used to provide the addresses of private citizens; it stopped that practice after a deranged fan used the service to track down and murder actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989.
The celebrity doxers may want to bear that in mind.