payday loan
A payday loans sign is seen in the window of Speedy Cash in northwest London, November 25, 2013. Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

Payday loan firm Wonga has warned its customers for the suspected illegal and unauthorised access to their accounts. The company said that the data breach could have stolen the personal data of up to 270,000 affected customers in the UK and Poland.

The payday loan firm said that it was aware that the customers' accounts were experiencing a data breach related problem. However, the company realised on April 7 that the data could be accessed externally. On Saturday, the company alerted its customers about the status of their accounts but it did not disclose where the data breach has taken place.

Customers were informed that there may have been illegal and unauthorised access to some of their data on their account. The message sent by the company informed the customers that their name, email address, home address and phone number may be affected by the data breach. The customers were also informed that the last four digits of their card number but not the whole number or their bank account number and sort code may be accessed illegally.

Wonga ensured its customers that passwords were not compromised and the company was working with authorities to assess the affected customers. They were also advised to look out for unusual activity across their accounts. It appeared that there was no sign of breach of the lender's website but the company alerted the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the police.

In the recent years, the company faced several controversies that affected its reputation. The company was found to have chased bad debts with letters from fake law firm and to have made loans to customers who could not afford to repay the payday loan firm.

Although it experienced controversies, the company tried to attempt in improving its reputation. It has changed its marketing strategy by bringing in a money-back guarantee and new TV adverts to make a better appeal to its middle-class audience. It has launched a three-month loan and short-term payday loan.The company has also replaced its original founders in the hopes to restore its reputation.

Data breach has compromised several companies including Tesco Bank, Three and Talk Talk. Tesco Bank suspended online transactions after £2.5 million (AU$3.09 million) was stolen from 9,000 customers while there were 13,000 customers who were affected by Three's data breach issue. Talk Talk was fined at £400,000 (AU$495,000) after ICO found the firm could have been prevented if TalkTalk had taken basic steps to protect customers’ information.

Wonga: How safe is your data?