TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Banks Notify Customers of Data Theft

Banks Notify Customers of Data Theft

Lisa Minter (
Tue, 24 May 2005 02:17:46 -0500

By PAUL NOWELL, AP Business WriterMon May 23,11:06 PM ET

More than 100,000 customers of Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America
Corp. have been notified that their financial records may have been
stolen by bank employees and sold to collection agencies.

In all, nearly 700,000 customers of four banks may be affected,
according to police in Hackensack, N.J., where the investigation was

So far, Bank of America has alerted about 60,000 customers whose names
were included on computer disks discovered by police, bank spokeswoman
Alex Liftman said Monday.

"We are trying to communicate with our customers as promptly as
possible," she said. "So far, we have no evidence that any of our
customer information has been used for account fraud or identity

Wachovia said it has identified 48,000 current and former account
holders whose accounts may have been breached.

"The numbers have increased as we continue to receive additional names
from police," Wachovia spokeswoman Christy Phillips said Monday.

Both banks are providing the affected customers with free credit
reporting services.

In a separate case with the potential for identity theft, a laptop
containing the names and Social Security numbers of 16,500 current and
former MCI Inc. employees was stolen last month from the car of an MCI
financial analyst in Colorado, said company spokeswoman Linda

The car was parked in the analyst's home garage and the computer was
password-protected, she said. MCI would not comment on whether the
data was encrypted.

The bank record theft was exposed April 28 when police in Hackensack
charged nine people, including seven bank workers, in an alleged plot
to steal financial records of thousands of bank customers.

The bank employees accessed records for customers of Cherry Hill,
N.J.-based Commerce Bank, PNC Bank of Pittsburgh, and Charlotte-based
banks Wachovia and Bank of America, according to Hackensack Police
Chief Ken Zisa.

Repeated calls seeking comment were not returned by Commerce Bank
officials, while PNC officials declined to estimate how many of their
customers' accounts may have been breached.

"We have no evidence that any of these accounts have been compromised
at all. We continue to work with law enforcement officials," said Pat
McMahon, a spokesman for PNC.

New Jersey authorities found 12 names and Social Security numbers
belonging to PNC customers but the bank found no suspicious activity
in the accounts, he said.

Collection agent Orazio Lembo Jr., 35, of Hackensack made millions of
dollars through the scheme, Zisa has said.

Authorities said they discovered the plot after they executed a search
warrant at Lembo's apartment in February as part of a separate
investigation. They seized 13 computers which contained details about
the plan, Zisa said.

Lembo received lists of people sought for debt collection and turned
that information over to the seven bank workers, who would compare
those names to their client lists. The bank workers were paid $10 for
each account they turned over to Lembo, Zisa said.

In New Jersey, continued scrutiny of computer discs seized from
Lembo's offices was yielding more names. Investigators have now
identified nearly 700,000 potential victims, Hackensack police
Capt. Frank Lomia said Monday.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Geeze, I can remember back in the
1970's when the worst thing you had to worry about with the banks
was when one of them (First National Bank of Chicago comes to mind)
would commit _postal fraud_ by riffling through mail not addressed
to themselves, open the mail and pocket any cash money they found. I
was forced to file a Small Claims case against First National Bank
in Chicago when this _snot_ of a customer service lady refused to
return money to me their mailroom employees had pilfered. (circa 1974-
1975). If you want more details, just ask. PAT]

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