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Consumer Confidential: Citi gets hacked, SUVs get safer, Gap gets smaller

June 9, 2011 | 10:23 am

Citipic Here's your throat-clearing Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Add Citigroup to the ever-growing list of companies who can't keep our personal info safe from hackers. The company says hackers breached the bank's network and accessed data on hundreds of thousands of bank card holders. It says about 1% of its card customers were affected by the breach, which a report in the Financial Times says had been discovered in May during routine monitoring. The names of customers, account numbers and contact information, including email addresses, were viewed, Citi says. However, it says other information such as birth dates, Social Security numbers, card expiration dates and card security codes were not compromised. I'll have more on hack attacks in Friday's paper.

--SUVs aren't so safe, right? Wrong, apparently. Sport utility vehicles are emerging from a long period of scrutiny with design and other changes that have markedly improved safety. Influenced by deadly Ford Explorer rollovers linked to defective Firestone tires a decade ago, SUVs now sit lower on car frames -- not truck platforms -- and are equipped with stability technology that has cut down on the worst accidents. "Drivers of today's SUVs are among the least likely to die in a crash," the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says in a report. "With the propensity to roll over reduced, SUVs are on balance safer than cars because their bigger size and weight provide greater protection in a crash." Size and weight, however, don't add up to better fuel efficiency. Just saying.

--Fall into the Gap ... if you can find one. Gap Inc. plans to close 200 stores within two years. The San Francisco-based clothing chain will reduce its U.S. store count to 700 by 2013, says Glenn Murphy, the company's CEO. The company did not release a list of specific stores it would close. Gap has more than 3,200 stores worldwide. "I think we’ve lost our edge here a little bit," Murphy says. "We’ve been tapping at the edges of Gap brand in North America. That’s not good enough. We need significant change -- first in product, then in stores." He says Gap will shift from being primarily a specialty retailer in North America to being more of a value player. I don't know what that means, but if it means the company will start focusing again on cool, classic duds, I'm in.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Citigroup is the latest company to get hacked. Credit: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg News