A laptop containing fingerprints of nearly 300 Internal Revenue Service employees and job applicants is missing, according to published reports.

In total, the agency said that it believes the computer contained information on 291 employees and job applicants, including fingerprints, names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth. The fingerprints had been collected as part of a normal background screening process.

A spokesman for the agency said that taxpayer data is kept on completely different systems and no taxpayer information was at risk. He also said that the fingerprints and other information contained on the computer could not be used to create forged IRS official documentation.

The computer was lost during transit on an airline flight and the IRS is in the process of further narrowing down the list of people whose information might be contained on the computer. The IRS has already attempted to contact all of the people by telephone, and will soon send out notification letters. Most of the affected people are based on the Midwest and West Coast.

Data on the laptop was not encrypted, was double-password protected. The laptop has been classified as missing, not stolen, and the matter was turned over the to IRS inspector general's office.

In addition to recent reports from accounting firms and the American Institute of CPAs that misplaced laptops had put clients' and member information at risk, last month a Veterans Administration employee had lost a laptop computer containing 26 million veterans' Social Security numbers. That laptop was apparently stolen during a house burglary.

Previously on WebCPA:

Drive Containing AICPA Member Info Goes Missing (May 15, 2006)

E&Y Warns Clients after Laptop Theft (Feb. 28, 2006)

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