Bank Loses Tapes of Records of 1.2 Million With Visa Cards
By SAUL HANSELL
Published: February 26, 2005
of America said yesterday that it had lost computer backup tapes
containing personal information about 1.2 million federal employees,
including some senators, with Visa charge cards issued by the bank.
spokeswoman for Bank of America, Alexandra Trower, said the bank did
not believe that the information had been stolen or had fallen into the
hands of people using it to commit fraud. There has been no suspicious
activity on any of the affected accounts, she said.
cards were issued to government employees who need to travel or make
purchases on government business. About 900,000 of the cardholders are
employees of the Defense Department. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat
of Vermont, was one of the cardholders.
The bank sent letters
yesterday to those whose data was on the lost tapes, providing a
telephone number for questions or problems. The bank said it did not
think it needed to change those account numbers.
declined to provide many details about the incident, citing security
concerns. She said that the tapes were part of a shipment in late
December from a bank facility to another location meant to house
backups. A few days after the shipment arrived, the bank discovered
that a small number of the tapes were missing. The bank then notified
the Secret Service, which has legal responsibility for credit card
The investigation so far has turned up no evidence of
wrongdoing and is consistent with the view that the tapes were simply
lost in transit.
"We are presuming it's not malicious activity,"
said Barbara J. Desoer, the bank's chief technology, service and
The bank notified the General Services
Administration of the lost tapes on Jan. 11, said Mary Alice Johnson, a
spokeswoman for the agency, which administers the government's charge
card program, known as Smart Pay. Several banks issue cards for federal
agencies under that program.
Ms. Johnson said the bank had "behaved as a good citizen."
incident comes at a time of increasing attention to the risks to people
when information about them held in corporate databases falls into the
Choicepoint, a company that sells personal data to
landlords and employers, said last month that it had inadvertently sold
personal data on 145,000 people to thieves last year. The information
was used to steal the identities of at least 750 people.