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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Stolen PC Had Credit-Card Data For 80,000 Government Workers

Stolen PC Had Credit-Card Data For 80,000 Government Workers

May 31, 2005; Page A4

WASHINGTON -- Federal and local authorities in Fairfax, Va., are investigating the recent theft of a computer containing the credit-card information of 80,000 Justice Department employees. Authorities learned about three weeks ago that the computer had been stolen from Omega World Travel, of Fairfax, which is close to Washington.

The Justice Department has been notifying employees and asking them to monitor their accounts and cancel the government-issued credit cards if they notice suspicious activity.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Fairfax police are looking into the case. Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said there hasn't been any indication of improper activity on the cards so far. "We don't provide Omega Travel with the kind of personal identification information that's usually exploited for identity theft," she said. "No personal addresses, Social Security numbers or office locations were on the computer." The missing information includes password-protected names and credit-card account numbers. The agencies the employees work with also are included but are in code.

A federal law-enforcement agent, however, raised red flags. Many employees affected by the computer theft likely provided additional information to Omega for their traveler profiles. That information can include home addresses, telephone numbers and even passport numbers and other identifiers. "There's a lot of information on that profile," the agent said. "Between the credit cards and now this, I'll be glad if somebody doesn't end up diverting my check to their account."

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank One Corp., which was acquired by the New York financial-services company last year, are monitoring the accounts for suspicious activity and the travel company has beefed up security precautions since the theft. Steps also have been taken to make sure the computer can't be reconnected to the company's network.

In December, Bank of America Corp., Charlotte, N.C., lost tapes containing credit-card information on 1.2 million federal employees -- including some senators on the Banking Committee -- while en route to a storage facility.


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