Bank and credit card customers across Northern Ireland were last night waiting to be told if their personal details are among the one million discovered on a computer sold on eBay for £35.
The huge data loss involved information on customers from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), NatWest and American Express.
Over a million addresses, mobile phone numbers, bank account numbers, sort codes, credit card numbers, mothers’ maiden names and signatures were found on the hard drive.
The Ulster Bank, a subsidiary of the RBS, is investigating if its customers were affected by the security lapse. A bank spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph: “They are looking into it.”
The massive blunder was discovered by an IT manager who checked the hard drive of a computer he bought for £35.88 through auction website eBay.
The buyer, Andrew Chapman, from Oxford, said he was left completely shocked by what he found.
It was sold by an ex-employee of archive firm Graphic Data, which stores the records of some of Britain’s biggest financial organisations at its headquarters in Essex. Before selling it he did not erase the internal hard drive.
Mr Chapman told the Daily Telegraph: “I couldn’t believe it. In front of me was reams of extremely confidential information about thousands and thousands of people.”
It had belonged to data processing company Mail Source which is part of Graphic Data.
A Mail Source spokeswoman said the employee who sold the computer had made an “honest mistake”. She said the company was investigating, but stressed the sale was an “isolated incident”.
She said: “We want to stress that this is an isolated incident and we are investigating how the server was removed and sold.”
Jenny Thomas, for eBay, said that an item such as this should never have been sold on eBay and that the company is working with Graphic Data.
Some of the details included thousands of applications for credit cards to NatWest.
There are details of more than 1,300 credit card balance transfer requests.
It has also emerged a second computer has gone missing.
NatWest/RBS said: “RBS and NatWest take data protection extremely seriously and have very strict procedures to ensure the security of information at all times.”