BMO laptop on lam

September 8, 2006

By Jon Willing

HUNDREDS of banking customers have been told to monitor their accounts after a laptop containing personal information was stolen from a downtown Ottawa branch.

Stolen computer contains personal data for 900 of bank's clients

A spokesman for BMO Bank of Montreal confirmed yesterday that a laptop containing clients' personal information went missing last May from its Capital Centre branch on Laurier Ave. W.

Michael Edmonds said the data of less than 900 clients was on the laptop when it went missing from the branch.

"To this date, we're not aware that any information has been used for any fraudulent activity," Edmonds said yesterday, noting that the bank is monitoring the accounts.

Just yesterday, Ontario's privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian and BMO Financial Group launched a brochure outlining steps businesses can take to safeguard laptops and electronic handheld devices.


Bob Spence, spokesman for the information and privacy commissioner, said a recent survey of 500 U.S. companies indicated 81% of the firms reported a loss of one or more laptops in the previous 12 months.

Spence said the brochure offers "very practical" suggestions to help companies and government agencies prevent identity theft.

Edmonds wouldn't specify what kind of information is on the stolen BMO Bank of Montreal laptop, saying the data varies from customer to customer.

The thief might not even realize what kind of sensitive information is stored on the computer.

"Most of these thefts are for the hardware, not the data. However, we treat all of these extremely seriously," Edmonds said.

The bank has been advising clients on how to avoid being victims of identity theft, Edmonds said.

Ottawa police learned about the theft May 18. There was no indication of forced entry at the bank and no description of the suspect, Const. Isabelle Lemieux said.

Anyone with information about the laptop theft can call Crime Stoppers at 613-233-TIPS (8477).

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