September 26, 2006
General Electric Co. said today that a company laptop containing the
names and Social Security numbers of 50,000 current and former employees
was stolen in early September.
The laptop, which had been issued to a GE official who was authorized to
have the data, was stolen from a locked hotel room, GE said.
The Fairfield, Conn.-based company began mailing letters this week to
the people whose names and Social Security numbers were on the laptop to
notify them of the breach and offer a year's free access to a
credit-monitoring service, GE spokesman Russell Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson declined to give further details such as where and when the
theft took place or whether the company official is still with GE.
Nonetheless, he said, evidence suggested the thief was after the
computer, not the data on it. Wilkerson also said there is no sign that
the information had been used improperly.
The loss of the data, including employees' names and Social Security
numbers, raises the specter that the information could be used in
identity theft schemes, in which criminals apply for credit cards and
other services under stolen names.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire in the spring
after a laptop containing data on 26 million military veterans and
service members was stolen from a staffer's home.
In the past year, major U.S. companies that have reported the loss of
computer equipment containing data on employees and customers have
included aircraft maker The Boeing Co., financial services company
Ameriprise Financial Inc. and a U.S. mortgage firm owned by Dutch bank
ABN AMRO Holding NV.
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