Citigroup Inc., the world's largest financial-services company, said yesterday that computer tapes containing personal data on 3.9 million loan customers have been lost by United Parcel Service.
The Manhattan-based company said the tapes contain information on customers from branches of its CitiFinancial consumer-finance division and former customers with closed accounts. That accounts for all of the customers serviced by CitiFinancial.
The company said the missing tapes - which were one of 17 boxes it had shipped to a credit-score firm last month - contained Social Security numbers, account numbers and payment histories.
CitiFinancial, which has its headquarters in Baltimore, said the tapes left a facility in New Jersey and were headed to Allan, Texas, when they disappeared. Citigroup did not identify the credit firm.
The company has more than 1,000 employees in Baltimore. It is unknown how many of the 3.9 million affected customers are from Maryland.
Atlanta-based UPS acknowledged that it has been unable to find the package. A spokesman said a search is continuing. Citigroup said it has notified the Secret Service.
A Secret Service spokesman said the federal agency is investigating but declined to comment further.
Citigroup said it has begun sending letters to the customers notifying them of the loss but that it has "no reason to believe that the information has been used inappropriately, nor has it received any reports of unauthorized activity."
Citigroup said the data applied only to consumer loans for such purposes as bill consolidation, refinancing, home improvement, vacations, tuitions or obtaining extra cash.
"There is little risk of the accounts being compromised because customers have already received their loans, and no additional credit may be obtained from CitiFinancial without prior approval of our customers," Citigroup said.
Nevertheless, the company said, it will begin next month to send data electronically, in an encrypted form.
Citigroup said the tapes do not contain customer information from CitiFinancial Auto, CitiFinancial Mortgage or other Citigroup business.
Norman Black, a UPS spokesman, said, "We're very proud of our record of reliability, but in this case we've had to tell Citigroup we have not been able to find this one package. There's no evidence it's been stolen, no evidence of fraud."
He declined to say how long the package has been missing and characterized it only as "very large."
CitiFinancial said it is arranging to enroll any customer who wishes to do so in a credit monitoring service, at no cost, for the next 90 days.
Jordana Beebe, a spokesman for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy and education group, said the Citigroup customers "need to be cautious. They need to at least check their statements" for suspicious discrepancies.
Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Sun reporter Paul Adams and Bloomberg News contributed to this article.