Group Health laptops missing, 31,000 identities at risk

March 24, 2007

By Joe Furia

Group Health Cooperative Health Care System said Friday two of its laptop computers containing the personal information of 31,000 people are missing. The computers are said to contain the names, addresses, social security numbers and Group Health ID numbers of local patients and employees.

Group Health said the information is password protected, and that the company has not found any evidence that indicates the laptops were stolen or the information is being misused.

Claudia Donnelly, a Group Health patient, said she received a letter informing her that she is one of the 31,000 whose personal information is at risk.

"We have confirmed that information about you was contained on the computers," the letter read.

The letter also stated one of the computers disappeared on Feb. 26, and the second on March 7.

Now Donnelly wants to know why it took Group Health nearly a month to let her know.

"I think that they owe me and they owe everybody else who got letters like this answers," she said. "Why do people put personal information on laptops and then they're stolen or lost or misplaced or what?"

Group Health would not agree to an on-camera interview with KOMO 4 News, but the company did release a statement which, in part, read:

"Our investigation has not produced evidence that the missing laptops were deliberately taken for an illegal purpose, nor any evidence that the information they contained has been accessed by any unauthorized person."

Donnelly said she is frustrated, angry and worried her personal information may end up in the wrong hands.

"They say they're sorry about my inconvenience," she said.

Donnelly experienced a similar difficulty a few months ago when a Boeing laptop was stolen. Boeing informed Donnelly, who is a former employee, that the missing computer contained her information.

Now she's going through it all over again as a patient of Group Health.

"What can I do? You know, I don't know where the computers were lost," she said.

For each of the 31,000 patients and workers affected, Group Health has offered to pay for a year of consumer credit monitoring service.

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