Does Commonwealth Bank’s massive data loss put you at risk?

AFTER it emerged that Commonwealth Bank lost customer statements linked to 20 million accounts, the institution has spent the night assuring people they are not at risk.

The bank has admitted it lost financial statements spanning 15 years in 2016, after the story was uncovered by Buzzfeed News.

But the bank says the lost data did not include customers’ passwords or PINs and there was no evidence the information had been compromised.

However, customers have vented their fury at the bank for not informing them of the data breach at all.

When the data stored on tape drives was lost by a subcontractor in 2016, CBA launched an investigation to find out what happened, but the documents were never found.

One theory suggested by a forensic team from accounting firm KPMG was that the tapes might have fallen off the back of a truck taking the data to be destroyed.

But the data was never located — either on the road or on the dark web — and it was decided that had most probably been disposed of as planned.

However, one Western Australian farmer living with bone cancer claims he was the victim of identity theft after his CBA documents were found in a gutter in Victoria.

Commonwealth Bank lost bank statements linked to 20 million accounts in 2016, but chose not to tell customers. Picture: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito

Commonwealth Bank lost bank statements linked to 20 million accounts in 2016, but chose not to tell customers. Picture: AAP Image/Brendan EspositoSource:AAP


Barry Lakeman said he ended up in debt after criminals used his identity to borrow money and buy goods and services.

He approached Geoff Shannon from Unhappy Banking, who told he had been dealing with the Lakemans’ “many loans and credit issues” resulting from the fraud ever since.

Mr Lakeman said CBA told him in 2014 that his statements had been found in a gutter in Victoria, a state he and his wife hadn’t visited for three years. He said the bank suggested his wife must have taken the statements there and left them behind.

Police then called Mr Lakeman in August last year to say they had found his gun licence — only the membership number was wrong, the 59-year-old told The Conversation.

“It was a forgery,” he told Sydney University Adjunct Associate Professor Michael West, who wrote about the issue in September. “The number at the top of the card was different from the number on my card.”

And there have been other incidents too, Mr Lakeman claimed. “In 2015, a company in Victoria rang me and said, ‘We have finished the canvas for your caravan’ … I don’t even own a caravan.”

Northam Police began investigating the identity theft with the help of Mr Shannon, who took the case to the bank-funded Financial Ombudsman Service set up to handle customer complaints.

But Mr Lakeman still doesn’t know what really happened, telling Prof West: “It really hurt us because when we tried to move and buy a house there was a black mark against us. It affected our credit rating.”

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