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Data of 25 million UK families lost

London, November 21
Personal data, including bank accounts, addresses and national insurance numbers, of about 25 million families in the UK has been lost in the post, posing threat of mass identity theft and bank fraud.

MPs gasped when Chancellor Alistair Darling told the House of Commons last night that the discs containing the data had been lost in the internal post after a junior official at HM Revenue & Customs in Washington, Tyne and Wear, breached all government security rules by sending them by courier to the National Audit Office in London.

A frantic, secret police-led search over the past week hasnít been of any help to locate the discs, containing details of half the British population, sent by unrecorded post. These families are beneficiaries of child benefits, a tax-free monthly payment for all those with children.

All banks and building societies have been alerted and the public has been told to be vigilant of raids on their bank accounts.

Treasury ministers were desperately hoping to stave off bank panic today, fearing account holders will rush to change their accounts either in person or on the Internet, leading to a second banking crisis akin to the run on Northern rock.

Last night information commissioner, Richard Thomas, conducting a broad inquiry on government data privacy, told The Guardian he was demanding more powers to enter government offices without warning for spot-checks. ó PTI

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