Last fall, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee reported that 57 laptops were stolen. This compromised thousands of phone calls and about 300,000 screenshots of personal information viewed during the calls, according to a report in Businessweek.
Most of the information pertained to BlueCross BlueShield’s internal identification numbers, name and date of birth – not enough information to result in identity theft. But some phone calls also included Social Security numbers, which a thief could use to perpetrate any number of identity theft crimes, such as access a victim’s medical care or credit accounts.
While BlueCross BlueShield said customers faced a “low risk” of having their personal information misused, it offered them all a credit monitoring service to track their accounts.
Identity theft is among the nation’s fastest growing crimes and affected more than 11 million Americans last year, according to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research. Credit monitoring is one way consumers can protect themselves against fraudulent activity. Consumers may also want to take measures to protect documents pertaining to medical and credit information.
BlueCross BlueShield identified more than a half million customers affected by the breach. It has spent about $7 million trying to resolve the issue, including sending hundreds of thousands of letters and putting in more than 110,000 work-hours to review compromised material.
One laptop was stolen from the company’s gastroenterology clinical services unit at the University of Florida. It contained information regarding patients’ Social Security numbers, names, addresses, medical records and medical procedure codes.
This information had been downloaded onto the computer by a Shands employee who believed the computer was encrypted. The employee has since been disciplined and reeducated on security policies at the company, according to the report.
Shands spokesperson Kim Rose said the incident reemphasized the importance of protecting information.
“We always work to educate employees on our privacy policies,” she told the newspaper. “This has given us another reminder.”
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