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GE: Laptop with data on 50,000 staffers stolen

GE: Laptop with data on 50,000 staffers stolen
GE: Laptop with data on 50,000 staffers stolen 

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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