Wells Fargo customers' names, addresses, Social Security numbers and account numbers are accessible on four computers stolen recently from a vendor.
Wells Fargo officials would not say how many mortgage and student-loan customers were affected, but they did say that no passwords or personal identification numbers were in the database, the Associated Press reported. The customers were warned to file security alerts with the three major credit bureaus.
"There is no indication that the stolen information has been misused," said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Janis Smith. The theft is the third in about a year in which computers containing personal data were taken. The bank is unaware of misuse from the previous two thefts.
The computers were stolen from Regulus Integrated Solutions LLC, which prints loan statements from its Atlanta office. The bank notified its customers by mail last week and offered a free year of its credit-monitoring service. The services usually costs $12.99 a month. Wells Fargo also offered a toll-free number for customers to call with questions: (800) 687-5120.
The Herald of Bergen County, N.J., reported that in November 2003, thieves burglarized the office of an outside consultant for the bank, stealing computers with customer information. One person was arrested after the company offered a $100,000 reward, according to Reuters news service.
In February, another laptop was stolen when a Midwestern Wells Fargo employee left the keys in a car ignition while stopping at a gas station, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Identity theft is a growing problem. When an individual's information is stolen and then used to open credit accounts, it may take years for the person to fix the problems. The Federal Trade Commission recently estimated that 37.3 million people have been victimized by identity theft in the last five years.
"Certainly Wells Fargo regrets that this situation occurred, and we know it can cause some anxiety for customers, and we apologize for that," said Wells Fargo spokesman Kevin Waetke.