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Insurance firm admits losing bank details of 62,000

AN insurance company has warned 62,000 of its customers that their personal banking details have gone missing, raising the prospect that money could be stolen from their accounts.

Irish clients of Scottish Provident, whose business has been taken over by Phoenix Insurance, have received a letter warning a data file with their names and bank details has gone missing. The information was not encrypted, Phoenix Insurance admitted.

The letter said: "As the file was not encrypted, we cannot be absolutely confident that it is secure."

Angry customers had threatened to close their accounts as they felt the company had handled the situation badly, adviser John Geraghty of LABrokers said.

"I have had a number of calls from customers who are disgusted by this," he said. "They are so annoyed about it they want to move their business somewhere else."

Customers fear they may be subject to identify fraud as the information contains their names, addresses, bank account numbers and sort codes.

The missing data file is also understood to contain personal information of people who were in contact with Phoenix about taking out life insurance or investment policies but did not do so.

The loss of the policyholder details has been notified to the Central Bank and the Data Protection Commissioner, according to the letter.

A number of Phoenix policyholders who contacted this newspaper were annoyed at the tone of the letter, which they described as flippant and matter of fact.

A spokeswoman for Phoenix said the data file went missing when it was being transferred from one office to another in Dublin. She confirmed the file was not encrypted, but stressed that it was the normal procedure for the company to encrypt its electronic information.

She stressed that the data would be difficult for criminals to decode unless they were highly skilled in software manipulation.

The spokeswoman added: "We do not believe there is a significant security risk to individuals' information.

"However, we have written directly to all those affected and have set up a helpline for any customers who are concerned about information security."

She said the letter was sensitively written to reflect the seriousness of the incident. The company apologised.

"We take the issue of information security very seriously and would like to reassure policyholders that steps have been taken to ensure this does not happen again."

Two years ago, a laptop computer containing bank account details of 75,000 Bord Gais customers was stolen in Dublin.

Irish Independent