The Boston Globe and a smaller Boston-area paper, the Worcester Telegram-Gazette, inadvertently distributed the credit card information of as many as 240,000 subscribers on paper slips attached to bundles of newspapers.
The bank routing information of as many as 1,100 subscribers who pay by check was also exposed, according to Boston Globe publisher Richard Gilman.
"We deeply value the trust our subscribers place in us and are working diligently to remedy this situation," Gilman said in a statement. "Immediate steps have been taken internally at the Globe and the Telegram & Gazette to increase security around credit card reporting."
The error occurred when the Telegram-Gazette printers used recycled internal reporting slips, which contained credit card information, to print out their packing bundle slips. The Telegram-Gazette and the Globe share the same distribution system.
Gilman said the practice of using recycled slips would stop immediately.
The breach was first discovered by a store clerk in Cumberland Farms, Mass. The publishers have been trying to recover as many papers as possible, but admitted that most may have been thrown out.
The Globe has a circulation of approximately 450,000 subscribers, while the Telegram-Gazette has a daily readership of 81,000 for its Sunday edition. Both papers are owned by the New York Times Corporation.
The publishers contacted the four major credit card companies -- Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover -- to advise them of the snafu. The company offered to provide the credit card companies with the data of customers who may have been affected, according to the Globe press statement. Visa and MasterCard have asked for the information.
The publishers have also set up a toll-free number, 1-888-665-2644, for customers to call and verify if their information was exposed.