Data loss could affect 650,000 store credit card users

Credit card company GE Money said a computer tape has disappeared which contained personal information of consumers who hold JC Penney credit cards.

In addition to JC Penney, as many as 100 other companies could be affected. GE supplies credit cards to some of the nation's biggest retailers, including Wal-Mart, IKEA, Lowe's, Lord & Taylor, and online payment service PayPal, among others.

About 150,000 of those customers on the tape would also have their Social Security numbers compromised, the company disclosed. The drive apparently first went missing in October 2007.

Data storage company Iron Mountain is being blamed for the loss, as the drive was housed there. As of yet, there have been no reports of fraudulent activity on the accounts affected, and GE said it didn't have any inclination to believe theft was involved.

Getting data off the tape would be a chore for thieves according to Iron Mountain, although it said it regretting misplacing the tape. "We occasionally make mistakes," a spokesperson told the Associated Press.

As has become standard with data losses like this, GE has agreed to pay for a year's worth of free credit monitoring for those affected. The company began notifying customers of their data loss in December.

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