Workers' data stolen from DPS-contracted company

June 26, 2008 06:48 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) -- The personal information of 826 state employees was stolen from a Wichita Falls home office.

A lockbox containing the information was taken from the home office of an employee of L-1 Identity Solutions, a private company contracted by the Department of Public Safety to do fingerprinting.

Notices are in the mail to inform the hundreds of victims that their names, home addresses, dates of birth, driver's license and Social Security numbers are in the hands of criminals. About 100 of those people work for the State Board of Education, and this is happening less than a year after the Texas Legislature mandated that all education employees submit their fingerprints for criminal background checks.

The of 826 people now in the hands of criminals.

"We do want qualified teachers in the classroom, but every time something happens, that jeopardizes their privacy, they wonder 'is it worth it?'" said Doug Rogers, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

Rogers said this is exactly what he feared when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 9 in 2007. It requires all education employees submit to fingerprinting.

"We were very concerned about what kinds of information would be sought in order to gather the criminal history background checks," Rogers said.

L-1 Identity Solutions seems to have the same concern. In its letter the company asks the agency if, in the future, it can do fingerprint checks without driver's licenses or Social Security numbers.

"They've figured out a different way that they can do it where it can still be validated for use for the nationwide fingerprint check," said DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange.

That is little comfort for those who are at risk of identity theft. Victims include teachers, realtors, TYC applicants and those seeking hazardous materials endorsements. All were waiting to be fingerprinted.

"Is this a reputable company? As far as I know," Mange said. "There is no indication at this point that that information has been compromised."

The company promises in this letter that they will provide free credit report monitoring for a year and identity theft insurance for those affected.

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