box10.gif (1299 bytes)








Stolen laptop contained thousands of personal records

EDMONTON – The Canadian Press reported that hundreds of angry doctors and their families were demanding answers from a financial services company after a laptop computer containing thousands of personal files was stolen from a car in a parking lot.

About 8,000 clients of MD Management, a subsidiary of the Canadian Medical Association, received a letter from the company dated June 29 warning them that a laptop computer containing detailed information about their financial and professional circumstances had been stolen.

The computer was taken from an MD Management employee’s locked car during a break-in, said Guy Belanger, president of the MD Financial Group. “The car was in a shopping centre parking lot,” he said. “The window was smashed. The contents of the car were stolen, including the laptop.” Earlier that day, the employee had downloaded extensive information onto the laptop.

“There were several thousand files, clients of our Edmonton-area regional office,” Belanger said.

Once the employee contacted head office, officials checked source files to determine what information had been copied. The files include such identifying information as names, ages and addresses as well as professional and financial information.

Belanger said the information was protected by password. He added there is no evidence to suggest the thieves targeted the laptop, nor is there any indication the information has been used.

“The police considered this to be a random theft.”

MD Management has hired a private investigator to try to track down the laptop. And the company is taking precautions to try to keep the information from being used for fraudulent purposes by contacting Canada’s two credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion.

Those bureaus will flag the files for as long as six years, telling financial institutions to double-check the identity of anyone using the information. “I’ve talked to several hundred clients over the last few weeks to reassure them and tell them how seriously we take this,” Belanger said.

Edmonton police and Alberta’s privacy commission are investigating the theft. MD Management, part of a group of companies that offer various financial services to Canadian doctors and their families, is reviewing its policies on what information may be downloaded in what circumstances and by which employees.

“It was obvious from this particular theft that there is room for improvement,” Belanger said.

“This was an employee error. But we want to make it as foolproof as possible. The privacy of our clients is paramount.”