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Approximately 800,000 people in California’s child support system may be at risk of identity theft or other privacy issues after their private records were lost in transit earlier this month. Since no one is certain where the records may be located, officials are alerting individuals that they could be impacted by the major error.
Child Support Data Goes Missing in Transit
The California Department of Child Support Services is scrambling to recover data after losing it in transit on March 12.
The agency had transferred the information to IBM in Boulder, CO as part of a disaster preparedness exercise that would ensure California’s child support system could be operated remotely. After the exercise was deemed successful, the files were to be transported back to the child support department via Iron Mountain, Inc. road transportation.
Before they reached their destination, however, four computer storage devices went missing which contained the following information:
- Social Security numbers
- Driver’s licence numbers
- Names of health insurance providers
As announced by the department, the improperly-secured container also held information about employers for custodial and non-custodial parents, as well as details on children in the system.
Identity Theft a Major Risk for Those Affected
The department said in its announcement made on Thursday that it has already notified all those possibly affected by the data loss. To head off issues with identity theft,the department notified the three major credit bureaus, as well as the state attorney general’s office and the state Office of Privacy Protection.
In addition to taking these steps, the child support department is recommending that individuals affected by the breach place a fraud alert on their credit cards and take steps to obtain copies of credit reports to protect their identities.
The agency did explain there’s a chance that the lost information won’t be accessible because a specialised machine is needed to run the cartridges the data is store on. Also, special hardware and software is needed to read it.
But because hackers often have highly-sophisticated technology that enables them to access secure files, it’s best that individuals affected take additional steps to ensure their privacy remains intact.