Bank warns customers personal data may have been breached

August 25, 2006

Associated Press

Sovereign Bank is warning thousands of customers that their personal data may have been stolen along with three managers' laptops taken earlier this month in Massachusetts.

Bank officials said fewer than 1 percent of customers in the New England and Mid-Atlantic area may have been affected, the Standard-Times of New Bedford reported.

"There's no information any of the accounts have been compromised," bank spokesman Carl Brown told the newspaper. He would not say how many letters were sent to customers Aug. 21, but said it was in the thousands.

"We do consider this as a serious matter; we want to do everything we can," Brown said. "Police are investigating, and we're conducting our own internal investigation."

Brown said the laptop computers used by branch managers and other managerial staff included unspecified personal information but not account information.

The letter sent to customers indicated bank officials "strongly believe" the personal files were deleted before the thefts. It says the bank has programmed a flag into its systems that will notify employees if the personal information of a particular customer may have been affected.

Brown said the computers, taken from vehicles at two locations in Massachusetts he declined to identify, have not been recovered and there are no leads in the case. He said extra precautions have been taken regarding laptops since the thefts.

A New Bedford customer who received a letter said he wasn't concerned.

"I'm just mad, really," David Brenneke said. "The personal information shouldn't be on laptop computers. It's kind of ridiculous."

Philadelphia-based Sovereign Bank serves primarily the Mid-Atlantic region and New England. It has approximately 800 branches.

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