The Boston Globe newspaper has been flooded by around 50,000 telephone calls from distressed readers after it accidentally sent out hundreds of thousands of subscribers’ credit card numbers with its newspapers, the paper reported on Friday.
215,000 credit card numbers were printed on the back of paper used to wrap newspaper bundles distributed to newspaper retailers in central Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts attorney general is investigating if laws were broken and local legislators have held on last Sunday’s blunder to drum up support for initiatives aimed at better protecting consumers from identity theft.
According to a report on its website, by Friday afternoon, the newspaper had more than 48,800 subscribers telephoning the newspaper, because of which the managers were compelled to ask employees from other departments to answer the phones.
A Boston Globe spokesman said the number of people cancelling subscriptions to the 134-year-old newspaper since Tuesday when the mistake was publicly announced has been minimal, though he refused to disclose the exact figure.
Till Friday, unauthorised purchases had been made with only four credit cards using the private numbers released by the Globe and its regional publication Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Globe spokesman Al Larkin said.
However the mistake, coming at a time when confidence in the media industry has been shaken by several journalism scandals, could cost the paper some readers, said Robert Zelnick, chairman of Boston University’s journalism department.
“There will be an effect for the Globe,” said Zelnick. “Many readers will not distinguish between administrative personnel mistakes and mistakes by journalists, and that means in the short run they will lose some readership.”
It also comes at difficult time for the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper that is struggling to hold on to advertisers and readers amid growing Web-based competition.
Richard Gilman, the Globe’s publisher, has apologised to subscribers; however one cannot turn a blind eye to the mistake.
The blunder at the city’s most respected paper, first published in 1872, follows errors with customer data reported at a major U.S. bank and an online brokerage that also stimulated concerns of identity theft.
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