AN investigation is under way after a laptop computer containing the bank account details of thousands of companies and individuals was stolen from council offices in Glasgow.

Almost 38,000 city council "customers" had their personal details stored on the stolen laptop, which, although it was password protected, was not encrypted.

Among those whose details were on the computer were thousands of vulnerable Glasgow residents who receive care grants, as well as people who receive winter fuel payments.

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As well as names and addresses, the bank account details of around 10,400 com-panies and 6100 individuals were stored on the laptop.

It is one of two stolen during a break-in at council offices in Cochrane Street between May 28 and May 29. It comes just over two years after the Information Commissioner's Office censured the council over loss of an unencrypted memory stick with details of sex offenders, victims, witnesses and case officers.

The extent of the latest data loss was not apparent until June 6, according to the council. It said no personal information was on the second laptop.

The Herald understands an unencrypted laptop, containing sensitive information and not stored away securely, flies in the face of a number of city council IT policies, with potential ramifications for the staff member involved once an internal probe is complete.

It is also understood the city council and police do not believe any criminal activity has been attempted with the details.

Big Brother Watch, which campaigns for protection of privacy, said the council should face questions over why the lap-top was only password protected and not securely stored.

A spokeswoman said: "It's easily accessible to people who want the information. As some of this relates to welfare payments we're also talking about the bank accounts of some vulnerable people here."

A council spokesman said: "We are in the process of writing to the people affected by this theft to alert them to the data loss and offer advice about what steps they might need to take."

A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner's Office said: "We will be making inquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action needs to be taken."

l Council customers who have any questions can contact Glasgow City Council on 0141 287 0400 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.