Countrywide silent on Utah theft cases
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Countrywide Financial Corp. won't say how many Utahns are eligible for two years of free credit monitoring because their personal information, including Social Security numbers, was stolen from the home lender's computers.

But their numbers could be substantial. The lender has been active in Utah and operates numerous offices along the Wasatch Front that take loan applications.

In one of the largest data-theft cases in years, a former Countrywide employee was arrested Aug. 1 and charged with illegally accessing the company's computers for more than two years.

"Since this is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to get into the specifics of the case," said Jumana Bauwens, a Countrywide spokeswoman.

The information allegedly was sold to mortgage brokers to be used as sales leads. As many as 2 million loan applicants may have had their data stolen, the FBI said. Countrywide, which says no harm has been reported as a result of the theft, described that figure as too high but declined to provide its own estimate.

Countrywide customers began receiving letters this week offering them daily monitoring of their credit files maintained by the nation's three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

The service, at no cost to the customers from an Experian business unit, ConsumerInfo.com, includes e-mail alerts of significant changes in credit reports.

An alleged participant in the scheme was being held in California on a fraud charge after allegedly trying to sell Countrywide data to an undercover federal agent. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial Oct. 14.

Additional arrests in the case are possible, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. Two Countrywide customers sued the lender and its parent company last month in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, accusing Countrywide and Bank of America of failing to protect customers' sensitive information. The suit asks that it be certified as a class action.