Former Fruit of the Loom workers' identities compromised

February 23, 2007

By Blake Spurney, CNI News Service

A security breach with a Fruit of the Loom database has left former Rabun Apparel Inc., employees on edge.

Word spread rapidly across the North Georgia Technical College campus Tuesday morning about how easily one could access the 1,006 names and Social Security numbers of former employees.

"It just spread like wildfire today," said Wayne Love of Clayton on Tuesday.

Fruit spokesman John Shivel said Tuesday evening that every possible step was being taken to purge the information from the Internet. Sometime between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, it could no longer be accessed.

"What we know right now is that there has been some breach of confidential data by a third party for a limited number of employees," he said. Fruit has about 24,000 employees.

"Security and privacy of both current and former employees is of the utmost priority at Fruit of the Loom," Shivel added. "What we're doing is pursuing an experienced and reputable outside firm to minimize any potential effects on any former or current employees."

Love heard about the breach from a friend, who learned how to access the Web site from someone else. Rumors also have been part of the frenzy.

Tina Harkins of Rabun Gap was one of three rattled women who stopped by The Clayton Tribune office Tuesday.

"If you have kids growing up, all the money you're saving - someone else could just grab it," said Harkins, a 13-year employee who was laid off last April.

The thought that anyone could use their Social Security numbers to obtain loans or credit cards in their names angered the women.

"It's all on there," Harkins said.

All three women went to the Rabun County Sheriff's Office to fill out an incident report as a precaution in case they become victims of identity theft.

Besides the information on former Rabun Apparel employees, a former subsidiary of Fruit of the Loom, the Web site also lists 1,500 other current and/or former Fruit employees from four other plants.

Rabun Apparel shut down production last summer and shuttered the plant in December.

Love has been in contact with officials at Fruit's legal department in Bowling Green, Ky., in search of an explanation.

"I don't know exactly how it happened. ... Somebody has hacked into something and gotten this information illegally," he said.

Fruit set up a toll-free number late Tuesday as a resource for current or former employees to call for information. It also plans to notify every possible person whose identity was compromised by overnight mail in the near future.

"We just want to make sure that we're getting everybody notified as quickly as possible," Shivel said.

Love said he didn't think Fruit was responsible, other than maybe not having its records secured.

Regardless of who may be responsible, Love feels fortunate to have his name listed with only a partial Social Security number. For all of the names listed, his was the only one he saw without a full number.

"For me, that is just the good Lord watching out over me," he said. "I just call that a blessing from my Father."

Rabun Apparel formerly employed a number of Habersham County residents. The personal information reportedly was on the Internet from Jan. 15 until it came down overnight Tuesday.

Personal information for a majority of knitting department employees is said to have been included.

Former Rabun Apparel employees encourage others to go ahead and file a police incident report and to notify their banks, credit bureaus and the Social Security Administration of the possible compromise of their personal information.

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