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Wed, Jun 08, 2005 - Page 12 News List

CitiFinancial announces loss of customer data

PRIVACY CONCERNS The company said that the information was lost by courier firm UPS last month, marking the latest in a series of data losses


CitiFinancial, the consumer finance division of Citigroup Inc, is notifying some 3.9 million US customers that computer tapes containing information about their accounts -- including Social Security numbers and payment histories -- have been lost.

Citigroup, which is based in New York, said on Monday the tapes were lost by the courier UPS Inc. in transit to a credit bureau.

The bank said the tapes contained information about both active and closed accounts at CitiFinancial's branch network. It said they did not contain information from CitiFinancial Auto, CitiFinancial Mortgage or any other Citigroup business.

The statement said that CitiFinancial "had no reason to believe that this information has been used inappropriately, nor has it received any reports of unauthorized activity."

Norman Black, a spokesman for Atlanta-based UPS, confirmed that the tapes were missing.

"Despite an exhaustive search for this package, we've been unable to find it," Black said.

It was the latest in a series of data losses or breaches that have forced financial institutions and other data collectors to warn customers that their personal information may be at risk.

Last month, media and entertainment company Time Warner Inc said that computer backup tapes containing data on 600,000 individuals were lost by an outside data storage firm.

The data covered current and former employees going back to 1986, as well as some of their dependents and beneficiaries, the company said. It did not include personal data on Time Warner customers, the company said.

Also in May, more than 100,000 customers of Wachovia Corp and Bank of America Corp, both headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, were notified that their financial records may have been stolen by bank employees and sold to collection agencies. And in April, Ameritrade Holding Corp, a leading online discount broker, said it had informed some 200,000 current and former customers that a backup computer tape with personal information had been lost.

Kevin Kessinger, executive vice president of Citigroup's Global Consumer Group and president of Consumer Finance North America, said that the tapes left CitiFinancial on May 2 and were discovered missing on May 20. Senior managers were notified on May 24.

The US Secret Service was told of the loss of the tapes on May 27 and began investigating.

US Representative Edward Markey, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus, said the CitiFinancial data loss underscored the need for Congress to regulate information brokers.

"This episode of identity data loss is, unfortunately, becoming all too common," Markey said in a statement.

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