Stolen laptop holds data on seniors

Stolen laptop holds data on seniors
Stolen laptop holds data on seniors 

By Jan Murphy
The Patriot-News
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)


Concerned residents can call this toll-free line: 866-592-8622

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