Legendary ex-con Frank Abagnale is certain that the two discs containing the records of up to 25 million child benefit claimants were stolen to order. He claims that the thieves will "sit" on the data for years, and later target the children whose records are on the discs.

Abagnale is author of 'Catch Me If You Can' - later a Hollywood blockbuster directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks - and a fraud expert who has worked extensively for the FBI over the past 32 years.

Talking exclusively to Computerworld UK's Siobhan Chapman, Abagnale said the loss of the discs was "not just a mistake".

"I truly believe that someone paid for information to be stolen. It's what happens all the time, that someone acted in collusion with somebody else to steal this data. Governments, corporations and local authorities do a "horrible job of protecting data" he said.

"The government would not ship gold bullion via an unsecured courier or method and in today's environment, one needs to understand that sensitive personal data is worth just as much as gold bullion."

Commonly ID thieves will obtain records and hold them for years after the theft, before embarking on fraudulent activity, said Abagnale, who urged the UK government to provide a long-term, stringent monitoring service.

"The government needs to to provide a monitoring service to monitor credit records for at least three years, because this activity might not surface for a year."

"Because the records are for younger people, many may not have a credit record yet. Once they reach adult age, they could find their identity had been sold before they've even started on life," he warned.

Abagnale started his criminal career by creating new identities to con banks. He defrauded banks by printing out his own almost-perfect copies of cheques, cashing them and persuading banks to advance him cash on the basis of money in his accounts.

One of his most famous tricks was to print his account number on blank deposit slips and add them to the stack of real blank slips in the bank. The deposits written on those slips by legitimate bank customers ended up going into his account rather than theirs.

Now read all Frank Abagnale's interview with Computerworld UK.