Laptop theft sparks ID fears

October 5, 2007

Manchester Evening News

Hundreds of people have been placed at risk of identity theft after a laptop computer containing personal and financial details was stolen from a car, it was revealed today.

HM Customs and Revenue is investigating the incident after an employee's laptop was stolen from the boot of a car.

The computer contained sensitive financial details of at least 400 people which had been passed to the HMRC by several financial institutions as part of an audit.

HMRC confirmed that the computer, which disappeared overnight on September 20, did hold customer information but said it was protected by "top level encryption".

A spokesman said all the financial institutions involved had been informed and were contacting their customers with security advice.

He said: "We very much regret the loss of some customer data provided to us by a number of financial institutions.

"The incident has been reported to the police and we are carrying out an urgent internal inquiry.

"HMRC places the utmost importance on the security of confidential material and we have in place very clear processes governing the handling of such material.

"We have notified the relevant authorities and are writing to the financial institutions whose customers are affected."

The Liontrust, a fund management company whose customers details were contained on the laptop, said their clients' investments were safe.

A spokesman said customers' accounts were insured against forged transfers and that extra checks would be carried out on all transaction requests on the affected accounts.

He said: "It has been an unfortunate incident on the part of the HMRC, but it is us that has been left to pick up the pieces.

"We are being extra vigilant in the case of those clients involved and in addition we have an insurance policy to protect us against forged transfers."

It is the latest in a string of similar incidents.

In November last year 11 million people were put at risk of identity theft after an employee's laptop containing sensitive customer account information was stolen during a domestic burglary.

In May the salary details and financial identities of more than 20,000 Marks & Spencer staff were compromised after the laptop they were on was stolen from a printing firm.

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