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US bank staff 'sold customer details'

Data theft apology sent to thousands

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The sale of sensitive banking details to an allegedly bent debt collection agency has triggered warning letters to more than 100,000 US consumers. Bank of America has told about 60,000 customers and Wachovia a further 48,000 that their financial records have been breached. Both banks have offered affected customers free credit monitoring services for a year.

"We are trying to communicate with our customers as promptly as possible," Bank of America spokeswoman Alex Liftman told AP. "So far, we have no evidence that any of our customer information has been used for account fraud or identity theft."

The alleged plot to swipe the banking records of thousands emerged last month after police in Hackensack New Jersey, charged nine people, including seven bank workers, over the scam. The arrests followed a February raid on the home of Orazio Lembo Jr, 35, which recovered 13 computers containing the banking details of customers Bank of America and Wachovia along with clients of Commerce Bank and PNC Bank of Pittsburgh.

Investigators allege Lembo sold bank account details and employment information to collection agencies and law firms through his firm DRL Associates. The information was supplied by corrupt bank workers who were paid $10 a pop for their trouble. Reuters reports that a further two arrests in the case are likely.

The case is the latest in a growing list of security breaches involving personal data to affect companies including ChoicePoint and Reed Elsevier's LexisNexis division over recent months. Agents investigating the security breach at data broker LexisNexis searched the houses of 10 suspects last weekend, Reuters reports. No charges were made immediately following the raids in California, Minnesota and North Carolina by federal agents investigating the March 2005 case. ®

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