FedSmith.com Survey: Where ARE Those Missing Tapes?

Where are the missing Bank of America data tapes?

“How do you think I’m going to get along

Without you when you’re gone

You took me for everything that I had

And kicked me out on my own”

While it’s doubtful that the rock group Queen was clairvoyant enough to pin the lyrics to 1980’s smash-hit song “Another One Bites the Dust” based on increasing consumer identity thefts 25 years later, the song’s message certainly rings true of late.

“And another one gone and another one gone

Another one bites the dust…”

The lyrics seemingly could apply to the growing list of global data brokers in 2005 that are potentially exposing hundreds of thousands of consumers to identity theft and fraud. In the past month alone there have been several reported thefts and losses of consumers’ personal information by multiple data brokers.

This week, the newest casualty is data broker LexisNexis, which said that identity thieves have gained access to profiles of 32,000 U.S. citizens – the latest in a string of security failures and break-ins that has prompted outcries and hearings for better protection. This announcement follows last month’s startling revelation from ChoicePoint Inc. that thieves had gained access to at least 145,000 consumer profiles.

So what do the missing or stolen data contain? – only little ticky-tack things such as personal names, addresses, Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers of consumers.

“There are plenty of ways that you can hurt a man

And bring him to the ground

You can beat him

You can cheat him

You can treat him bad and leave him

When he’s down…”

On the federal side, up to 1.2 million federal workers, mostly within the Department of Defense, were shocked to learn last week that Bank of America reported that computer backup data tapes containing customer and account information of GSA SmartPay Card holders were lost in shipment. The tapes weren’t reported stolen. But they also haven’t been found. Some speculate that the tapes are in a landfill or were perhaps stolen by a baggage screener in December.

And therein lies the ultimate question. With ChoicePoint and LexisNexis, consumers know that the data were stolen. But with Bank of America, no one seems to know exactly where those tapes could be. BoA officials have attempted to soothe fears by stating that the tapes were encrypted which therefore made it unlikely that information could be stolen anyway.

Of course, if they knew where the tapes were, 1.2 million federal workers would probably be resting much easier. But they don’t know where the tapes are, so FedSmith.com is interested in your theories about what happened to the missing tapes and has set up a survey that asks the following questions:

– Are you confident that your personal information will not end up in the wrong hands?

– Should the company responsible for losing the tapes provide affected customers with free monthly credit checks?

– Where do you think the tapes could be?

– Should federal government workers be required to provide personal credit history and financial information in order to secure a credit card only authorized for official government usage?

Readers can also submit their comments and views on the survey. FedSmith.com will release the results of the survey, along with some of the more interesting and consensus comments, in a future article.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47