Possible data breach by Wells Fargo investigated

Wed Jan 4, 2012 9:31pm EST

The last Wachovia sign is seen outside a Wells Fargo banking centre in Charlotte, North Carolina October 13, 2011.  REUTERS/Chris Keane

The last Wachovia sign is seen outside a Wells Fargo banking centre in Charlotte, North Carolina October 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Keane

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(Reuters) - Connecticut's attorney general is investigating a possible data breach in which Wells Fargo & Co may have disclosed customer Social Security numbers as part of a fraud investigation.

The possible breach is the latest wrinkle in a probe into whether state employees falsified financial information on applications submitted for food benefits issued in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, which struck the U.S. East Coast last fall.

The state Department of Social Services had sent subpoenas to Wells Fargo seeking financial records as part of the investigation, according to a news release issued by Attorney General George Jepsen on Wednesday. The fourth-largest U.S. bank then may have provided customers copies of the subpoenas, which included Social Security numbers of multiple individuals, according to the statement.

Jepsen sent a letter to Wells Fargo asking for an explanation of why the bank may have disclosed the information. Under Connecticut law, individuals or entities entrusted with Social Security numbers can't improperly disclose them.

Wells Fargo spokesman Kevin Friedlander said the bank's focus is on its customers and other individuals who were affected. The bank will offer them the option of signing up for identity theft protection, he said.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy last month announced an investigation into the benefits, which were made available to low-income Connecticut residents who incurred disaster-related expenses from Irene.

Attorney Rich Rochlin, who represents some of the state employees under investigation, raised questions about the subpoenas in a news conference on Tuesday. He said he knows of two customers who received subpoenas containing a total of 130 names and Social Security numbers.

(Reporting By Rick Rothacker; Editing by Gary Hill)

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