By Jan Murphy
December 19, 2007
A state Department of Aging-owned laptop computer containing personal
information on nearly 21,000 senior citizens was stolen from a Johnstown
home during a Dec. 5 break-in.
The computer was issued to a department employee who works with the
agencies on aging in Indiana, Union, Snyder and Clearfield counties.
The employee was attending a funeral when the theft occurred, said
Michele Bell Gopinath, a department spokeswoman. Police suspect the
computer was taken for its street value, she said.
There have been no reports of misuse of the information, which included
names, addresses, Social Security numbers, some medical information and
the services clients received, Gopinath said.
The affected seniors are in the process of being notified, and credit
protection from TransUnion will be provided for 90 days at a cost to the
state of $23,000, she said. Seniors then have the option of having the
credit protection extended for a year at the state's expense.
Information on the computer was double password protected, Gopinath
When the theft occurred, she said the department was in the process of
encrypting computers and has since completed that work to provide
additional protection. It also is in the process of centralizing
information about clients so that the information does not have to be
downloaded onto laptops when employees are out in the field, but that
work is not completed, she said.
"We believe this was an isolated incident and that the provisions we've
taken with contacting TransUnion and contacting the consumers, should
give our consumers and clients a sense of safety," Gopinath said.
This is the third incident in four months where state-owned computers
containing personal information of Pennsylvanians have been stolen. The
other two thefts involved computers that contained information on more
than 375,000 welfare clients.
Jan Murphy: 232-0668 or jmurphy (at) patriot-news.com
Concerned residents can call this toll-free line: 866-592-8622
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