Employees from 49 Seattle companies warned of potential security breach

December 6, 2005


OLYMPIA - The state's Employment Security Department is warning more than 800 Seattle-area workers to protect themselves from identity theft after a laptop computer containing sensitive information was stolen from the trunk of an auditor's car.

The computer contained unemployment insurance reports for 49 Seattle businesses that were undergoing routine audits by Employment Security. The reports included the names, Social Security numbers and earnings information for about 530 people who were employed by the companies between January 2002 and their audit dates, which ranged from November 2004 to October 2005.

"It is important to alert people whose information was on the computer, in the off chance that whoever has the stolen computer is able to get past the security safeguards," said Deidre Andrus, who oversees Employment Security's tax offices.

The Employment Security Department does not have addresses or phone numbers for the employees named in the reports, so employers and the news media are being asked to help get the word out to affected employees.

The department has started notifying all 49 companies by phone and will send certified letters today containing the names of the affected employees, along with a notification to employees about the breach and how to detect and prevent the misuse of their financial records.

Since the companies may not be able to reach all former employees, people who worked for a downtown-Seattle business between January 2002 and October 2005 should visit a special Employment Security Web page (http://fortress.wa.gov/esd/portal/dataprivacy) to see if they are at risk.

The site lists the companies and the months of concern for each of them. It also has links to Web sites containing tips for preventing and responding to identity theft.

People who do not have Internet access may call (206) 706-3808 for help in determining whether they are affected and to ask questions.

"We deeply regret the inconvenience this has caused," Andrus said, adding that she has instituted additional security measures for protecting laptop computers that contain sensitive information. "It is important that we learn from this incident."

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