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Shell fingers IT contractor in theft of employee data

Oil company says outside IT worker used info from database to file fake unemployment claims

October 6, 2008 (IDG News Service) Shell Oil Co. is warning its employees that an IT contractor used the personal data of four Shell workers as part of an unemployment insurance claims scam in Texas.

Shell Oil, the U.S. subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, began notifying employees of the data breach on Friday, via a written notice that was posted on the Houston-based company’s Web site.

Shell spokeswoman Robin Lebovitz said company officials noticed early last month that someone had used Shell employee data to file fake unemployment compensation claims with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). After investigating, Shell determined that an employee of a third-party contractor had misused information stored in a corporate database, Lebovitz said.

The database includes records for a majority of current and former Shell employees in the U.S., according to Lebovitz. The notice about the breach indicated that the misused data included names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and some financial information.

The suspected scammer filed four false claims, Lebovitz said, adding that Shell has yet to uncover any evidence that other information from the database was compromised as part of the alleged claims scheme.

Shell didn’t identify the company that employed the suspect, saying only that it had been hired to work on a data indexing project involving the database. The notice to employees said that after the fraudulent claims were discovered, Shell escorted the suspect from its premises and terminated its contract with the IT company.

The alleged crime continues to be investigated by Shell, the Houston police and the TWC, Lebovitz said.

Story copyright 2008 International Data Group. All rights reserved.

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