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Vendor's stolen laptop contains personal information on 219 licensees

December 28, 2007

Vendor's stolen laptop contains personal information on 219 licensees

For Immediate Release: December 28, 2007
Laptop Stolen From Department of Commerce Vendor Contains Personal Information for 219 Minnesota Licensed Professionals

Department taking steps to notify those affected, protect their identity and demand stricter controls from vendor.

(St. Paul, MN) - On December 6, 2007 a laptop computer containing the personal information of 219 Minnesota residents was stolen from an employee of Promissor Corporation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Promissor is a vendor used by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to manage licensing data for the real estate, mortgage, and debt collection industries in Minnesota.

The theft of this computer has been reported to the Philadelphia Police Department and at this point it has not been recovered. Regrettably, Promissor waited until December 21 to alert the Minnesota Department of Commerce about this theft and since then Department staff has been working with the vendor to identify the extent to which Minnesota licensees have been affected and to notify them so they can take action to protect their identity.

The laptop was used to support and test the real estate, abstractors, appraisers and debt collection licensing system and data base used by several states including Minnesota. At the time of the theft, Promissor believes a limited amount of applicant/licensee information was stored on the hard drive of the computer, which was password protected, but not encrypted. They believe that such information included some or all of the following data fields for 257 applicants/licensees in the licensing system (including 219 Minnesota licensees): name, social security number, address and state license number.

According to Promissor, the 257 applicant/licensees affected are residents of Minnesota, Arizona, Ohio, Georgia, Alabama, Nevada, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.

On Friday, December 28, the Department of Commerce received from Promissor a list of the 219 individuals affected by the theft. Department staff is currently contacting these licensees by phone to notify them of the theft of their data and suggest steps they should take to protect their identity. Promissor also sent each licensee written notification which includes an offer by the company to purchase the credit watch monitoring service from Equifax for one year at no cost to the licensee.

The Department is also demanding from Promissor stricter measures of security for all other data containing Minnesota licensee information on all of their computer systems.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce offers the following tips to help consumers protect their identity.

  1. Know what's in your wallet. Avoid carrying your Social Security number in your wallet or purse. This number provides access to personal information, and it should be stored in a safe and protected place. In addition, only carry the credit cards you need. This practice limits access to your accounts in the event that your purse or wallet is lost or stolen. It's also a good idea to periodically photocopy your cards and keep a record of the customer service phone numbers associated with your financial accounts to speed up the process of cancelling credit cards, if needed.

  2. Shred, Shred, Shred. Open all mail and read it carefully—even the items that might appear to be junk mail could contain personal offers. Any items with personal information, such as pre-approved credit offers, bank statements or utility bills should be shredded before being discarded.

  3. Be suspicious of solicitors. You should never give personal information or your Social Security number to people unless you have verified that they are trustworthy. This advice applies to sharing information over the phone, in-store or online.

  4. Monitor your revolving accounts and credit score. Check your bank, credit card and other financial account information along with your credit score once a year to reduce the risk of unauthorized charges or credit applications. If you see a suspicious charge, immediately contact your financial institution.

  5. Take action against unauthorized actions. If you notice a new account has been opened in your name without your permission, immediately contact one of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—and ask that a "fraud alert" be placed on your record. Once the alert is placed, the other two bureaus will be notified, and creditors will be required to contact you directly before opening new accounts or making changes to existing accounts. In addition, file a police report and submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. You also might consider enrolling in paid services that monitor your credit report and alert you when someone applies for credit in your name or account information is altered.

  6. Surf the Internet Safely. Millions of people are online at any given time, some of whom are thieves looking to steal your identity. These hackers can be found collecting information from unsuspecting "pop-ups," surfing unsecured networks or hacking into retail Web sites. Be sure to always use a secured network, and frequently update firewall protections on your computer. Also limit the amount of personal information you post on networking Web sites.

  7. Consider purchasing identity theft insurance. Several insurance companies offer identity theft insurance. Although it cannot protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft, this insurance provides coverage for the cost of reclaiming your financial identity, such as the expenses of placing phone calls, making copies, mailing documents, taking time off from work without pay and hiring an attorney. As with any insurance policy, make sure you understand what you are purchasing and compare prices, coverages and deductibles among multiple insurers.