Would You Trade Your Tax Returns and Bank Statements for Free Music Downloads?

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LimeWire sounds innocent enough – a file sharing program that allows individual users to download music over the Internet, video and other files directly from the hard drive of another LimeWire user. LimeWire and other similar software, described as peer-to- peer software, is a popular way to avoid paying for music and movies. There is, however, a catch. These free downloads pose enormous risks. An anonymous LimeWire user who can download a song or a movie from your computer can also download your highly sensitive personal information that can be used to steal your identity and, in turn, your bank accounts and credit cards.

Because “users of some versions of LimeWire risk inadvertently sharing sensitive information stored on their computers,” the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), Bureau of Consumer Protection, conducted an investigation into the LimeWire program as reported in a publicly released letter, dated August 19, 2010, from the FTC to the CEO of Lime Wire LLC. http://www.ftc.gov/os/closings/100919limewireletter.pdf. The FTC was concerned that “LimeWire might expose . . . [a user’s] tax returns, credit reports, and college loan applications to millions of people” because “[i]dentity thieves have used LimeWire to retrieve this information and injure consumers.”

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