Stevens Point, Wis. - Sentry Insurance, a property, casualty and life insurance provider for personal and commercial customers, reported today that personal information on more than 112,000 of its customers was stolen, and that data on 72 of them was sold over the Internet.

The U.S. Secret Service is investigating. Sentry said the thief was "a lead programmer/consultant from a nationally recognized computer contractor hired by the insurance firm." The consultant's job required him to have access to Sentry claimant data, the company said.

"This is a situation where the expert who was working on our system chose to breach the faith that had been placed in him," Jim Stitzlein, Sentry senior vice president for operational services, said in a statement. He said quick action by the Secret Service prevented "much greater harm."

The data sold over the Internet included people's names and Social Security numbers but not medical records, Sentry said. All victims were involved with workers' compensation claims. The company has notified the victims and is providing them with credit monitoring to help prevent fraud.

The company said the consultant was arrested by the Secret Service and faces felony charges in federal court. A Secret Service spokesman could not be reached for comment Friday.

Mary Weller, corporate communications director for Sentry, said the suspect was arrested outside of Wisconsin, but declined to say when the theft occurred or anything about how it was discovered. She said there have been no previous thefts of claimants' personal data from Sentry.

Sentry said it has notified - by mail, according to Weller - the 112,198 claimants whose data apparently was not sold and is offering credit monitoring to them as well.

Source: the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Associated Press



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