State workers warned about missing personal data

August 18, 2006

By Kathy Robertson

A computer tape containing the names, mailing addresses and Social Security numbers of 9,468 employees at the California Department of Mental Health cannot be located, director Stephen Mayberg said late Thursday.

Department officials do not believe employees' personal information has been accessed because specific equipment is needed to read the computer tape, Mayberg said. However, as soon as the department learned that the tape could not be located, officials decided to notify employees and offer ways for them to protect their personal information.

An e-mail sent out Thursday night suggests that workers protect themselves from the possibility of identity theft by placing a fraud alert on their credit files with the major credit reporting services, Experian, Equifax, Trans Union. A similar letter will also be mailed to all department employees.

"The Department of Mental Health is committed to a no-excuses, zero-tolerance policy regarding the release of sensitive, personal and confidential information," Mayberg said in a prepared statement. "We are doing everything we can to ensure that all our employees are protected. The department has launched a full investigation into the situation and if we find any negligence, there will be significant disciplinary action including termination, if appropriate."

Under federal law, employees may obtain one free copy of their credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies by calling (877) 322-8228. Employees may contact the department director's office at (916) 654-2309 or log onto the California Office of Privacy Protection Internet site for more information about identity theft.

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