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Equifax staff's Social Security numbers on stolen laptop
[June 23, 2006]

Equifax staff's Social Security numbers on stolen laptop

(Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jun. 21--A laptop computer containing the names and Social Security numbers of all of Equifax's 2,500 U.S. employees -- from chief executive to janitor -- was stolen from an employee in London in late May, the company said Tuesday.

It's the sort of information that can lead to identity theft, one of the hot-button issues for credit bureaus such as Atlanta-based Equifax.

The employee was riding on a train when a thief took the laptop, Equifax spokesman David Rubinger said. The data were not encrypted, but Rubinger said names and numbers were stored in a jumble that would make it hard to know which numbers went with which employee.

"It would be very difficult to link this information and determine they were actual Social Security numbers in the first place," he said.

There was no data about Equifax customers on the computer, Rubinger said.

The company has detected no attempts to make use of the information, he said.

Equifax's security policy requires that sensitive data taken from its office be encrypted or accessed remotely over a secure connection.

The employee was entitled to have the data but was in the violation of the security policy.

Rubinger said "disciplinary action" was taken but declined to be more specific.

Equifax has offered U.S. employees free access to its credit monitoring service and suggested that they put a fraud alert on their credit files.

Over the past few years there have been increasing reports of the loss of personal data from companies responsible for safeguarding it.

Last week, there were reports that a laptop with the Social Security numbers of District of Columbia employees was stolen. The computer was stolen from the home of an employee with ING U.S. Financial Services, which administers the district's retirement plan.

One of the most notable incidents came when it was learned in early 2005 that scammers used business accounts to illegally access more than 145,000 consumer records including Social Security numbers and credit information from Alpharetta-based ChoicePoint.

ChoicePoint is an Equifax spinoff.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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