The Data Protection Commissioner is investigating the loss of a USB computer memory device which contained the personal details of over 800 Bank of Ireland customers.

The customers were from all parts of the country with various relationships with the bank, including pension, life insurance, mortgages, personal accounts and business customers.

In a statement the bank said that most of the 894 customers whose details were on the ‘mislaid’ memory device have been contacted.

The bank says that no financial information relating to the customers was stored on the memory device.

But risk experts say that a name, a contact phone number and the first line of a customers address provides more than enough information for somebody who wants to carry out identity theft.

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes says Bank of Ireland has done the right thing by notifying its customers about the loss of some of their personal information.

He said that while the best of security systems could be in place human error could still occur.

Bank of Ireland says that a full internal investigation is underway, but it has no reason to believe that the memory device has fallen into the wrong hands.

Unencrypted memory device

A Bank of Ireland spokesperson said the material is not financially sensitive, but the affected customers' accounts will be monitored.

However, the bank said the customer details were stored on an unencrypted memory device, going against the bank's policies and procedures, and that a full internal investigation is underway.

Last April, the bank disclosed that four Bank of Ireland laptops were stolen last year. They contained the details of 31,000 Bank of Ireland life insurance customers.

Separately, the personal details of 380,000 social welfare recipients were on a laptop computer which was stolen from a member of staff at the Comptroller and Auditor General's office in April 2007.