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California and the West

Boeing Employee Data Are Stolen

A purloined computer holds personal information on 161,000 current and former workers, the firm says.

November 24, 2005|David Colker | Times Staff Writer

Boeing Co. employees whose personal information was stored on a stolen company computer have begun receiving letters informing them of the breach.

The computer held Social Security numbers -- and, in some cases, addresses, birth dates and bank account numbers -- belonging to 161,000 current and former workers, according to a statement issued by Boeing, the largest private employer in Southern California.

Boeing said it had no evidence that the information had been accessed or misused. But the company told workers it was working with credit-reporting companies to help protect workers from identity thieves.

The company has offered no details of the theft, first reported Friday, except to say it did not occur at a Boeing site.

The letter instructed employees to call one of the major credit-reporting companies to put a 90-day fraud alert on their credit report. This would alert businesses to the possibility of fraudulent credit applications in employees' names and warn them to ask for proof of identity.

Among those receiving the letter was John Gean of North Hollywood, who was laid off in 2001 as an assembler and tester at a Boeing plant in the San Fernando Valley.

"It shows you this kind of thing can happen, even if you have been away from a company for a long time," said Gean, 48.

Gean said he had not noticed any unusual banking or credit card activity on his accounts in the last several months. "I have started to monitor it very closely," he said.

The personal data breach is among the largest reported in the last year. Information broker LexisNexis disclosed in April that outsiders had accessed its database, exposing information on as many as 310,000 people.

Another of the prominent personal information aggregators, ChoicePoint Inc., said in February that about 145,000 of its files might have been accessed by identity thieves.

A North Hollywood man, Olatunji Oluwatosin, pleaded no contest in February to one felony count for his role in a fraud ring that stole data from ChoicePoint.

The ChoicePoint case also sparked congressional hearings on how information brokers protect data.

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