'Tale of the Tape' Comes Out Well for ABN Amro
A computer tape containing data on the some two million residential mortgage customers of ABN Amro Mortgage Group Inc. here has been found. The tape disappeared as it was being shipped to a credit bureau.
ABN Amro Mortgage Group chairman and chief executive Thomas M. Goldstein told a press conference that the company was just one month away from implementing a secure and encrypted transfer of those data to the credit bureaus.
The problem for ABN Amro started on Nov. 18, when overnight shipping firm DHL picked up a package containing the computer from ABN Amro's Chicago data processing center. It was supposed to go to an Experian credit bureau facility in Allen, Texas.
On the next business day, which was Nov. 21, Mr. Goldstein said the company performed its normal checks to see if the tape arrived. When it discovered it didn't, ABN Amro notified both Experian and DHL. An investigation was completed that did not find any sign of the tape, which contained the consumers' names, Social Security numbers, account numbers and payment history.
After the tape was found, Mr. Goldstein said what had happened is that the original airbill had fallen off the package. A DHL employee had opened the package, found the return address on the tape, put it into a new package addressed to ABN Amro and shipped it back to the company. The original airbill has not been located.
Mr. Goldstein was quick to say that no other information regarding any relationships those customers might have had with ABN Amro affiliates were on the tape. As of Dec. 20, no one has tried to use the information on the tape in a fraudulent manner. The tape itself, he told a second press conference after it was found, showed no signs of being compromised. The company is continuing to monitor for possible misuse of the data.
The company has begun to notify its customers by mail of the situation. It originally offered to enroll them for free for 90 days in a credit monitoring service. After the tape was found, the company said it was extending that program to a full year, based on customer feedback.
Customers were have problems gaining access to the TransUnion website to enroll, because of the demand, it was reported. Mr. Goldstein said TU had installed a gateway to help monitor access.
The mailing, he said, was "six tractor-trailers full" of envelopes.
In addition, law enforcement agencies have been notified, as has the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Reserve Board. Once the tape was found, law enforcement stopped its investigation.
Back in the spring, he told the press conference, ABN Amro Mortgage Group started a project to improve the security of its transfer of data to the credit repositories. It had planned to implement a secure and encrypted electronic transfer of this information starting in December. A month later, a tape transfer would not have been an issue, Mr. Goldstein said.
The company has created a website (info.mortgage.com) to provide consumers with information about the incident and the assistance available.
According to an FAQ on the site, the tape did not contain any information from new ABN Amro borrowers whose loans have not yet closed.
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