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San Diego-based Petco Animal Supplies, Inc. is reporting that unknown thieves have made off with sensitive information on computers heisted from the offices of an unnamed independent accountant.

"On Tuesday, July 3, 2012, the outside auditor of Petco's 401(k) plan informed us that five laptop computers had been stolen from their offices during the weekend of May 18-20 2012," says a July 28 letter from Petco vice president Jeff Urry posted online by the California state Attorney General's office, as required by law for such reports.

"We are seeking an explanation from the outside auditor's office for the lapse in time in informing Petco of this incident."

The letter goes on to relate that the stolen laptops "may have contained certain personal information, including name and Social Security number, of all Petco associates who were issued a paycheck in 2010, as well as all associates who had a 401(k) account and received a distribution, or had a fee deducted from their account, in 2011."

It adds that neither Petco nor its auditor has "received any information suggesting that the personal information has been misused."

"Furthermore," the company says, "the laptop compuers were protected with a strong password," and the sensitive information was "contained in a software program that is protected with an encrypted password.

"Finally, the police officers from the San Diego police department to whom the outside auditor reported the theft believe that the thieves targeted the equipment rather than the information stored on the equipment."

“You should note that this incident should not put any of your 401(k) funds at risk. The information on the outside auditor’s laptops would not permit anyone who might be able to gain access to that information to access your 401(k) account, let alone transfer money from it.

“In the unlikely case that you used your Social Security number, or some derivative of it, as a password for online access to your 401(k) account, you should change your password.”

We have a call in to Petco for further details.

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