Hawaii personal information on stolen Safeway computer

November 5, 2005

By Gina Mangieri


Employees of one of Hawaii's largest retail chains may be at risk for identity theft after a manager's laptop computer containing names, Social Security numbers and other personal information about some Hawaii workers was stolen in California.

Identity theft is among the fastest-growing crimes, and prevention organizations say not enough is being done at most workplaces.

Safeway employs about 1,400 people at 18 stores across the islands. Some of their personal information was on a division director's computer now in a thief's hands -- information that could be used for identity theft.

"Our members received notification two months after the original incident, which concerns us," said Pat Loo of United Food and Commercial Workers, the union that represents Safeway employees.

The theft was in August from the manager's California home. A letter was sent in mid-October to all potentially affected employees. Several workers in Hawaii say they haven't seen a letter. Safeway corporate says that probably means they're not on the list.

"That it was on a laptop and they had all of this information certainly that is something to be concerned about," Loo said.

A Safeway spokesperson said the laptop was password protected, and they will help employees address any credit problems if they arise. Safeway told the union they've since changed how they handle employee information.

"We know that the company has put out that they've put some safeguards in place," Loo said. "We don't know to what extent."

The union says there are no Hawaii reports about identity theft related to the laptop theft. But worried employees are calling in.

"It's a real big issue -- not only for our members, but everybody in concern," Loo said.

One national study shows the id theft crime rate up 80 percent in just one year. More than 600 people last year in Hawaii were victims of identity theft.

The possibility that more could be vulnerable because of an employer is a reminder to check how your own workplace protects personal information.

"If you weren't aware of it -- certainly, shame on you, if you're not going to exercise the knowledge you have with other employers," Loo said.

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