Personal information of 180,000 Co-operators Life Insurance customers compromised

Original story by the CBC on January 31, 2003

SASKATCHEWAN – The chief executive officer of Co-operators Life Insurance apologized to the company’s customers Thursday after sensitive personal information on thousands of the company’s customers was stolen.“The Co-operators takes this situation very seriously and everyone in this organization, starting with me, is making this their top priority,” Co-operators CEO Kathy Bardswick told a Toronto news conference.

Thousands of customers of the Co-operators Life Insurance company have received letters warning them that their private information, including banking information, is at risk. The alert followed the revelation that a missing hard drive in Saskatchewan could contain sensitive information on as many as 180,000 of the company’s customers.

The drive was stolen from ISM Canada’s Regina office about two weeks ago. Co-operators has outsourced some of its IT functions to ISM Canada, which is a division of IBM Canada.

The letters are going out to pension plan members and people who hold individual life insurance policies. They’re warning customers that information could be used to steal their identity.

Some of the missing files have people’s names and addresses. Others have personal bank information that does not contain names. Company spokesperson Dan Thornton says it would be difficult, but not impossible, for someone to put the two together.
Thornton will not say how many Canadians are receiving these letters, but he says that they are erring on the side of caution.

“The drive may simply be missing,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is give our customers good information so that they can, as the letter suggests, be vigilant.”

The call centre at Co-operators Life in Regina is taking a steady stream of calls from concerned customers. They want to know if they’re in danger of being defrauded.

One of those customers, Terry White, said was alarmed to learn how much of his confidential information is on the missing hard drive.

“As soon as you get your bank account attached to your personal information, then you know where they can hit you,” White said.

Co-operators is advising its life insurance customers to watch their financial accounts for any unusual activity.

The full article published by the CBC on January 31, 2003 is available here.

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