August 7, 2004 in Business

Data stolen from state credit union

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Letters went out Monday to 13,000 Washington State Employees Credit Union members whose names, addresses and Social Security numbers were stored on a computer that was stolen in Southern California.

The letters advised the members to register with consumer protection bureaus for fraud alert, which notifies people when credit applications are submitted in their name.

“We sent the letters out Monday. People should already know if they’re affected,” said Ann Flannigan, the credit union’s vice president of public relations. “We take this seriously. On that computer was some 10 percent of our membership.”

The letters “apologize for the inconvenience and let them know we do take security seriously,” Flannigan said. “There was a real breach at a third-party vendor.”

On July 9, a personal computer was stolen from an office at PSB, a Lake Forest, Calif., company that the credit union had hired to market a new credit offer, Flannigan said. However, the police told credit union officials they don’t believe computer data was the target because another break-in occurred across the street at the same time. Also, the entire computer was stolen, not just the hard drive.

The credit union was not notified of the theft until last week.

“That was a little disconcerting to have that lag time,” Flannigan said. “The business said it took a while to find out which information was on the PC.”

The credit union has 127,000 members statewide, including 7,500 in Spokane County. Flannigan said she assumes the 10 percent of membership affected was primarily in Thurston County, where most members live. The credit union has three branches in this area: in Spokane, Spokane Valley and Medical Lake.

All of the personal information on the computer was password-protected, Flannigan said. Still, she advised members to call Equifax, a consumer protection bureau, at 1-800-525-6285 to sign up for fraud alert. Doing so will also enable consumers to opt out of pre-approved credit offers and to receive a free copy of their credit report.

“We’re hopeful the inconvenience is limited to this,” Flannigan said.

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