North Fork sends out letters after a laptop containing data for about 9,000 mortgages was stolen

September 17, 2005

By Henry Gilgoff,0,2210016.story

A laptop computer stolen from a North Fork Bank office included loan customers' personal information, North Fork says in a letter to affected consumers.

Data relating to about 9,000 mortgages that were originated by Countrywide Home Loans but sold to North Fork were in the laptop, according to a letter received by a customer on Thursday. The laptop was one of several stolen over the July 24 weekend, the letter said without identifying the office. The data included the customer's name, address and mortgage account number but, at least for that customer, not her Social Security number.

Newsday attempts to obtain comment from North Fork were unavailing. But a customer who called a number listed on the letter for more information was told an arrest had been made, although no details were given about where or when that arrest occurred.

When asked about the incident, State Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) said Friday, "I'll have my staff give North Fork a call next week to see how this happened and to see what they're doing to prevent it in the future."

Fuschillo was Senate sponsor of a state law enacted this year after information breaches at companies such as information clearinghouse ChoicePoint Inc. and Bank of America raised concern about identity theft.

The state law will take effect in December, mandating notice to customers but allowing for delays considered necessary to carry out investigations by law enforcement agencies, Fuschillo said.

The North Fork letter said the stolen laptops had "password protection." So, the letter said, "while there is no reason to believe that the perpetrator possessed the requisite expertise to access your data, there is some chance that the data could be compromised."

The letter gave guidance to reduce the risk of misuse of the data, including obtaining a free copy of a credit report and filing a fraud alert with credit-reporting bureaus.

It also said the bank would pay a one-year membership fee for affected customers who want to enroll in a service sold by Equifax, one of the credit reporting companies.

That service includes "unlimited access" to the Equifax credit report and daily alerts about key changes in credit reports compiled by Equifax, Experian and Trans Union that could indicate identity theft.

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