Two Papers Accidentally Release Credit Card Numbers of Subscribers

By: E&P Staff

Two Massachusetts newspapers, The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, said Tuesday that slips containing the names and credit card numbers of tens of thousands of customers were accidentally delivered with bundles of papers on Sunday in Worcester.The newspapers were first notified of the security breach on Monday by a convenience store clerk. It took until late Monday for officials to confirm the data on the back of the paper were, indeed, credit and debit card numbers. Senior managers learned of the security breach Tuesday morning.“We deeply value the trust our subscribers place in us and we are working diligently to remedy this unfortunate situation,” said Richard H. Gilman, publisher of The Boston Globe, in a statement. “Immediate steps have been taken internally at the Globe and Telegram & Gazette to increase security around credit card reporting.”The Telegram & Gazette–like the Globe owned by the New York Times Co.–said the slips also contained routing information for 1,100 of its customers who pay by check.The newspapers are still investigating their procedures for handling confidential customer information. But a spokesman said employees weren’t disciplined because the errors were inadvertent. ”There’s no reason to believe this was intentional,” he said.Officials of the newspapers said they were notifying customers of the mistake, which may have affected as many as 240,000 subscribers.The financial data was on the back side of paper that had inadvertently been recycled and used for routing slips or “toppers” in 9,000 large bundles of the Telegram & Gazette distributed on Sunday to 2,000 retailers and 390 newspaper carriers. A Boston Globe article on Wednesday reveals that the newspapers have now “added a safeguard to the computer system so only the last four numbers of credit and debit cards can be printed.” The Telegram & Gazette has stopped recycling paper that includes customer data, officials said. The company has notified American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa and any banks whose customers may be affected. “There have been no reports of any unauthorized uses of credit card information,” Globe Vice president Al Larkin said Tuesday evening.The newspapers posted notices to customers at the top of their Web sites late Tuesday. The Globe stated: “About 227,000 Globe subscribers pay by credit or bank cards, although it?s unclear exactly how many had their information released.”The Worcester paper, after describing the overall problem, revealed: “No single customer name was distributed on any more than two bundles. The routing slips are typically discarded shortly after the bundles are delivered.“The incident took place when discarded internal reports were inadvertently recycled as the paper for printing the routing slips. The Telegram & Gazette has immediately discontinued the practice of reusing paper in this manner. Enhanced security measures have been put into place to assure the confidentiality of customer information at both newspapers. “Representatives of the Globe and Telegram & Gazette are recovering as many of the routing slips as can be located, although most of the slips are likely to have been discarded. To date there have been no reports of misuse of the payment card data, although the newspapers will continue to monitor the situation….“The Boston Globe and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette urge subscribers to contact their credit card companies if they are concerned about unauthorized transactions.“The Globe and the Telegram & Gazette have set up a hotline for concerned customers who may have questions regarding their accounts. Customer service representatives will be able to tell customers if their information was included in the inadvertent distribution.”

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