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We are often told that keeping our personal details secure should be a top priority.

As consumers it has become second nature to keep our bank cards separate from our cheque books, and we have learnt not to write our four-digit Pin codes in the handy strip on the back of our plastic cards. Some of us even own our own shredders.

So when big financial services companies are less than scrupulous about customer details it does make you feel peeved.

One FT reader experienced an extraordinary breach in security. He described what happened when he wrote to Norwich Union to request a copy of his original application for a term life assurance policy.

Sure enough the post delivered some documents, but not the ones he was expecting.

Our reader says: “Imagine my surprise when I received the original application form for Mr X (name removed) from Worcestershire, obviously containing his full name, date of birth, address, bank details and a copy of his signature.

“If I were criminally inclined, I am sure it would not be too difficult for me to use this information!”

It’s an amazing lapse in security.

At least Norwich Union does come clean and say sorry: “Unfortunately a human error meant that in this isolated case, the normal procedures we have in place to avoid this occurring did not work.”

Presumably this corporate-speak conveys the message that the person who was dealing with our reader’s case was so busy chatting or surfing the internet, or texting a friend that he or she didn’t notice which documents went into the envelope.

It just goes to show that companies can spend a fortune on high-tech computer security but be thwarted by lackadaisical staff.

Our reader would be happy with a donation to his chosen charity to make peace with NU, and it has readily agreed to that.

Let’s hope this is an isolated case. If not, let us know and we’ll see if customers’ personal details are frequently sent out as a result of “human error”.

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