Thousands of health records stolen from Palo Alto agency

September 19, 2005

Associated Press

PALO ALTO - A backup tape containing the names, Social Security numbers and detailed health information of as many as 6,000 current and former clients of the Children's Health Council was stolen from the nonprofit agency's offices, officials confirmed Sunday.

Payroll information for about 700 current and former employees, as well as financial information for parents of clients, also was on the tape, which was reported missing shortly after Labor Day.

The agency sent out letters Thursday and Friday alerting each person affected that they may be at risk of identity theft, said Stephen Joffe, executive director of Children's Health Council, which works to diagnose and treat childhood behavioral problems such as autism.

"It's a horrible crime that was committed, absolutely," Joffe said Sunday.

The backup tape and the hardware that creates it were physically removed from a computer housed in a locked room to which about 15 to 20 employees had access, and the room didn't appear to be broken into, officials said.

Palo Alto police were investigating the case.

Joffe said the agency has been able to re-create the data in order to keep working. It also has increased security to the room housing the computerized records by changing the lock, limiting access and installing a keypad log system to track who goes in and out, he added.

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