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Published: Thursday, 2/9/2006

Data breach affects workers, retirees at plant in Fostoria

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER

FOSTORIA - Many workers and retirees of the Honeywell International Inc. spark plug plant in Fostoria are among 19,000 people whose names, Social Security numbers, and bank-account information appeared on a publicly available Web site last month.

Some say they aren't worried, but others have asked financial institutions to change their accounts to protect themselves from identity theft.

In any case, Honeywell, the aerospace, automation, and automotive conglomerate in Morris Township, New Jersey, has offered free credit-monitoring service and identity-theft insurance to those affected, spokesman Robert Ferris said yesterday.

"So far we don't think anyone has a problem," said Shelley Flipse, a 28-year employee of the plant. She is recording secretary for United Auto Workers Local 533, which represents more than 700 of the 800 workers.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is a growing threat but the increase slowed in the last year, accounting for 256,000 complaints.

Even so, a study by the Council of Better Business Bureaus recently found that identity theft is a $57 billion annual problem.

Ms. Flipse and other employ-

ees received a letter from Honeywell late last month notifying them of the security breach.

The company has said a former company computer worker in Phoenix hacked the data and posted it on a Web site.

The breach was discovered Jan. 20 and the site was taken down.

A second letter or e-mail went to those who were named on Internet.

The union has received no complaints from its members, Ms. Flipse said.

Dozens of workers and retirees in the Fostoria area may be affected, she said.

Honeywell's Mr. Ferris said the firm, with 120,000 employees, has not broken down to individual facilities the list of those affected.

The company has smaller units in Toledo, Perrysburg, and Bowling Green.

Stephen Favor, president of First Ohio Credit Union in Fostoria, said a number of the Honeywell workers and retirees have asked that their account numbers be changed.

"There's some concern," he said, "but others are less concerned and don't want to change their numbers."

A number of his institution's 13,000 members have been scammed by Internet "phishing" and other schemes, he said.

He recently warned members in a newsletter not to give personal information over the Internet.

Jay Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, said he advises victims to close any affected accounts and open new ones.

"That's easier than fighting the banks," said Mr. Foley, who is a native of Fostoria.

Credit monitoring works only if the consumer keeps close tabs on it, and the value of ID-theft insurance depends on the deductibles and what is covered, he said.

Contact Homer Brickey at:

homerbrickey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129



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