Isle bank customers warned about data robbery
Personal information was stolen from Bank of the Orient in L.A.
Bank of the Orient customers in Hawaii were recently told that a Los Angeles bank robber had stolen their personal information and that they may be at risk for identity theft.
Ernest Go, Bank of the Orient's chairman and chief executive officer, sent a letter dated a week ago to all 28,000 of the bank's members in Hawaii and California, informing them of the security breach. During a robbery on May 31 at a California branch, the robber came away with magnetic data tapes containing the names, addresses, social security numbers and deposit and loan account numbers of all bank customers.
"The bank robber thought he was getting surveillance tapes and ended up getting backup tapes," said Scott Bender, a communications consultant for Bank of the Orient.
The stolen files did not include any passwords or personal identification numbers necessary to access the information, and the tapes cannot be read without proprietary software, playback equipment and password access, Bender said.
Though the bank has not had any reports of identity theft or complaints about the security breach, several security measures have been implemented to help customers and improve service.
Magnetic tapes are no longer being used in the bank's branches to store customer information. Bank of the Orient is now using an off-site automated system to keep track of privileged customer information, Bender said. The bank was actually in the process of updating its technology when the theft occurred, he said.
"Bank of the Orient takes information security very seriously," Go said in the letter to bank members. "This is the first security breach experienced by the bank since its beginning over 35 years ago."
It is not known how many Bank of the Orient customers in Hawaii were impacted by this incident, Bender said.
Although this incident involves only Bank of the Orient, many other companies and agencies -- including the Federal Trade Commission, the agency responsible for monitoring companies' handling of confidential data -- have had their own cases of lost data recently.
"Identity theft as a whole is increasing -- it's just a new avenue for people who want to do misdeeds," Bender said.
The state Division of Financial Institutions has not received any complaints from Bank of the Orient customers, and is not aware of any other isle banks experiencing this kind of breach, Deputy Commissioner Lynne Himeda said yesterday.
"A situation like this has not been reported, but several banks have reported phishing attempts," Himeda said. Phishing involves attempts to get personal information by sending out fraudulent e-mails.
Bank of the Orient is working closely with police to resolve the incident and has set up a response service center for customers, Go said. Customers can call 1-888-360-3288 toll-free to talk to a bank representative about the incident.
The bank has issued several recommendations to help its compromised customers safeguard against identity theft. It recommends that customers obtain a credit report and file a fraud alert with a credit reporting agency.
To request a free annual credit report, bank customers can visit www.annualcreditreport.com. A fraud alert, which stays active for 90 days, lets creditors know to contact an account holder before authorizing new account openings.
The bank also is encouraging customers to enroll in Triple Alert, a credit monitoring service. The bank will pay to keep customers enrolled in the service for a full year. Bank of the Orient declined to comment on the cost involved in providing this service.
The bank is telling customers who detect problems with their accounts to contact Bank of the Orient, their local police department and the fraud department of a major credit bureau.