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We’ve covered a lot of lost and stolen laptop stories recently at ComputerworldUK – a handy round-up of some recent ones is available here – and our journos do like a tasty news story.

So a frisson of excitement ran through the office at the news that the bank details of Prince Charles were on a stolen laptop. Yes, a bigger brand than Marks & Spencer or Nationwide had been hit by the laptop curse.

Where did we hear the news? From the PR people at Johnson King who act for data encryption firm PGP Corporation. “Prince Charles has become the latest victim of a serious data breach,” a press release said.

“A laptop containing the Prince's private bank details - including account number, sort code and national insurance number - was earlier this month stolen from the car of an employee of Mooreplay, the payroll company that handles wages for the Prince's Duchy of Cornwall estate.”

Blimey.

The release added that Jamie Cowper, PGP’s European marketing director at data encryption expert PGP Corporation, had made the following comments: "It seems that not even royalty is immune to the growing threat to personal data.”

No indeed. One’s data is not safe any more.

There was just one problem. The story wasn’t true.

We rang Northgate, parent firm of Moorepay, which said the Duchy of Cornwall was not a Moorepay client and therefore did not have its payroll data on the stolen laptop.

Prince Charles’ office does not usually comment on this sort of thing, but a spokesperson kindly had a little look to see if there was anything in the tale. No, there was not.

So where did the story come from? From that well known source of tabloid-shaped hard news, the People – where it was prudently decorated with many careful phrases, such as “it was feared”, “apparent” and “believed to have”. Hmm.

At least one IT publication ran the story before hastily pulling it down.

Last word to “an insider” quoted by the People: “It's not every day the future King of England's bank details appear to have disappeared.”

That’s certainly true.

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