Hawaii Says Stolen Records Could Lead to Thousands of ID Thefts

April 17, 2006

Hawaii revealed that more than 43,000 people, nearly half of them government employees, are at risk of identity theft.

The case involves the making of unauthorized copies of insurance company records that list the names and Social Security numbers of people enrolled in certain health and group life insurance plans in 1999.

The records had been produced by the Voluntary Employees Benefit Association of Hawaii in a civil lawsuit that the state brought against the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the United Public Workers union and others, Attorney General Mark Bennett said.

The records were copied at the request of the attorney general by a professional copying service in Honolulu, officials said.

The state was informed by federal officials in January that unauthorized copies of some of the records were made, apparently while they were at the copying service, they said.

Copies of the records later were found by police on a computer used by a person under investigation for drug offenses, the state officials said.

The U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the agencies investigating the case, had asked that the theft of the records not be disclosed to the public until now, the state said. The investigation continues.

In all, 22,000 private sector employees and 21,500 HGEA and UPW workers are at risk.

“Identity theft is a serious crime and a growing national problem. Records containing Social Security numbers and other personal information can be used by thieves to obtain credit cards, to open fraudulent bank accounts, to mortgage real property and to purchase automobiles,” Bennett said.

“We are taking this issue very seriously and strongly advise those affected, at a minimum, to obtain and review their credit reports, which are free under federal law,'” he said. “We very much regret the very serious impact this theft will have on so many persons.”

State officials also advised those affected to monitor their Social Security statements and personal accounts for unusual activity.

“HGEA is upset that members have been exposed to identify theft by the state’s failure to adequately safeguard their private information. Now our members face a period of uncertainty until the authorities notify those who are affected,” said Russell Okata, the union’s executive director.

“I expect the state to accept full responsibility for its failure to adequately protect the records of its employees and to take immediate action to protect their identity and credit,” Okata said.

The insurance plans included those offered by Hawaii Dental Service, Hawaii Medical Service Association, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., Vision Service Plan, Chiro Plan Hawaii Inc., Royal State National Insurance Co. Ltd. and Kapiolani Health Hawaii.

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