Ameriprise Laptop Theft Puts Client Data at Risk

Financial data of 158,000 Ameriprise clients has been compromised by the theft of a company laptop, though there have been no reports that the data on the laptop has been abused.

Advisory firm Ameriprise Financial announced on January 25 that financial data of some 158,000 clients and 68,000 advisers was compromised when a company laptop was stolen from an employees car.

A file stored on the laptop contained the clients names and internal Ameriprise Financial account identification numbers, but not their Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or dates of birth. But it did contain the Social Security numbers of the advisers.

As a precautionary measure, the company is keeping a closer watch on account access, and a dedicated Web site has been established to answer client questions.

/zimages/2/28571.gifSurvey results show that cyber-crime is more feared than physical crime. Click here to read more.

For the advisers, the company is offering one free year of credit monitoring, along with another dedicated Web site to address their concerns.

The crime occurred last December in a public parking lot. While the laptop was password-protected, the employee admitted that the files were not encrypted, even though it is Ameriprise policy to encrypt them. The employee has since been terminated.

"We will undoubtedly be following up with all the members of the organization to restate these policies," said Steven Connolly, a spokesman for Ameriprise. "This is an illustrative example of why we have these policies, why to know them and follow them."

That said, Ameriprise has not received any reports that the thief has abused the customer data. Because the crime took place in a public parking lot, and because other items were stolen from the car, the assumption is that the thief was not aware of the valuable data on the computer.

Ameriprise continues to work with local officials to solve the crime. The company would not divulge where the crime took place, so as not to hurt the investigation, Connolly said.

/zimages/2/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.