Boston Globe in credit card data snafu

January 31, 2006


Two Massachusetts newspapers owned by The New York Times Co., the Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette, said Tuesday they had mistakenly sent out slips of paper with the credit card data of up to nearly a quarter million subscribers.

The credit card numbers were printed on routing slips attached to 9,000 bundles of newspapers sent to retailers and carriers last weekend, according to the newspapers.

"Immediate steps have been taken internally at the Globe and Telegram & Gazette to increase security around credit card reporting," Richard H. Gilman, publisher of the Boston Globe, said in a statement.

The credit card data of up to 240,000 subscribers may have been exposed, they said.

The blunder comes amid heightened concern over the security of consumer data in the wake of several incidents of lost or stolen personal records involving companies such as data broker ChoicePoint Inc., Bank of America Corp. and shoe retailer DSW Inc.

So far, the newspapers had not received any reports of misuses of the credit cards, and American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa had been advised of the situation, said Boston Globe spokesman Al Larkin.

Exposure of the data occurred because the Telegram & Gazette, which helps circulate both papers under a shared distribution system, printed the routing slips on recycled paper containing internal reports with subscriber credit card numbers, Larkin said.

"We've put a stop to that," Larkin said of the practice of reusing paper.

The Globe's circulation was 450,000, according to Larkin. He did not have a daily number for the Telegram & Gazette, but said the Sunday edition had a circulation of 81,000.

The newspapers were trying to locate and recover as many of the slips as possible, but believed that most had already been thrown away.

The publications had set up a hotline, 1-888-665-2644, for subscribers to check if their data was sent out. The papers are part of The New England Media Group, which is owned by The New York Times Co.

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