Woman used online account, credit card of rocker, cops say.

Originally published in Picayune Times Newspaper on May 1, 1998

Trent Reznor, leader of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, alternative culture icon and Garden District resident, may want to stick to communicating the old-fashioned way.

A Georgia woman was booked this week with fraudulently accessing Reznor's account with America Online, the nation's largest commercial online service.

Amber Appelbaum, 22, obtained Reznor's secret password by calling the online service's billing department and claiming she was his wife, according to the arrest warrant application.

From there, Appelbaum used the secret password and Reznor's screen name, "MT Rez," to gain access to the Internet, the warrant says. Appelbaum was booked with computer fraud, access device fraud and making harassing phone calls to Reznor. She also allegedly charged nine long-distance phone calls to one of Reznor's credcards, according to court papers.

A spokeswoman for AOL said the company is cooperating with the New Orleans police investigation and could not comment on what the suspect told the AOL employee.

"This appears to be a case of an obsessive fan who commited fraud against AOL and Mr. Reznor," spokeswoman Patricia Primrose said.

AOL has come under fire in recent months for other cases in which customer service representatives released confidential information.

Sailor Timothy R. McVeigh was disciplined after the Navy linked him to an anonymous "profile page" posted on AOL in which a "Tim" from Honolulu expressed a sexual interest in young men and used the online name "BOYSRCH."

A company representative confirmed to Navy investigators the full name of the customer. America Online acknowledged the employee violated in-house rules about disclosure.

Most recently, a computer hacker stole a subscriber's password, allowing him to vandalize the American Civil Liberties Union's site on AOL's service.

A person pretending to be a subscriber called AOL's customer service and asked to change the subscriber's password. Though AOL requires several pieces of personal information to change password, a customer-service employee allowed the caller to change it without some of that information, an AOL spokeswoman said.

The new age of communications has spawned problems before for Reznor. The singer, who made Time magazine's list of the 25 most influential people in America last year, faces a federal lawsuit in California for allegedly stealing songs from a man he met online.

Through a spokeswoman, Reznor declined to comment on the charges against Appelbaum.

Appelbaum, who was arrested Monday and released on her own recognizance Wednesday, declined to discuss the case.

"I can't wait until this is over," she said. "I didn't do it. All I want is to go home to Atlanta to be with my family."

Appelbaum and her husband planned to move back to Georgia today, but those plans are on hold while the case is pending. The district attorney's office is reviewing the case.

Reznor, who also owns a Magazine Street recording studio, apparently hired a private investigator to look into problems with his account. The investigator shared information with the New Orleans Police Department, according to cour records. They interviewed another woman, who told them Appelbaum used her computer to access Reznor's account.

Transcribed by Keith Duemling

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