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Mismailed disability claims cause security breach

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Photo: Video by ktnv.com

Mismailed disability claims cause security breach

By Kean Bauman. CREATED Mar 20, 2014

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- From Target to the Sands Corporation, security breaches of personal information have been big news in recent months. So you'd think those in charge of protecting our privacy would be extra vigilant. But as Contact 13 reports, that's not always the case. Chief investigator Darcy Spears has uncovered a major mistake by the state involving very sensitive personal information.

Darcy Spears: “You're afraid that this information can fall into the wrong hands?”
Cari: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Cari is still shocked over what she recently found in her mailbox. When she got an envelope from the State Department of Employment she expected information about her disability claim.

“It was addressed to me. And I proceeded to read it and realized that the contents didn't make any sense. Or they didn't have any reference to my case.”

Because of concern for her own privacy, Cari didn't want us to use her last name. The paperwork stapled to her cover sheet?

“It had another claimant’s name,” she says. “Their Social Security Number and their date of birth.”

Also, their doctor’s name and his address. And that's not all.

“And then when I turned the page, it was yet another person.”

Once again, that person's name, date of birth, full social security number and doctor information. The second one is for a three-year-old child.

There's also a bar code under the claimants' names containing who knows what else.

What wasn't in Cari's envelope? Information about her claim. She says she got a call from a stranger who found it in his mailbox.

“And said the same thing happened to him. Only he received my information.”

Darcy: “He had your name?” Cari: “He had my information.”
Darcy: “Your birth date?” Cari: “Correct.”
Darcy: “Your social security?” Cari: “Correct.”
Darcy: “And your disability claim information?” Cari: “Correct. And what doctor i was supposed to go to.”
Darcy: “What is scary about that?” Cari: “What isn't scary about that?”

Cari called the state Department of Employment right away.

“I told them that I was irate and upset about the fact that is…was a huge security breach,” Cari explains.

“Who knows where? Across Nevada? Las Vegas? Who knows? And how many people it affected?”

HIPAA violations, a security breach and multiple people exposed to potential identify theft. We wanted to ask the state how this could happen and who's going to be held accountable but they refused to answer our questions on camera.

Instead the Department of Employment sent us a statement blaming a contracted vendor with the Social Security Administration. This is the statement in full:

A contracted vendor with Social Security Administration (SSA) mailed letters dated March 4, 2014 to several SSA disability benefits claimants that had other claimants' letters stapled together. We received 4 phone call complaints in our call center on 3-11-14 about claimants receiving letters with other claimants' letters attached. Our Carson City office immediately began investigating how that could have occurred and immediately called SSA Region IX to alert them. SSA Headquarters is working with the contractor to correct the situation. Any further information will need to come from the SSA Regional Public Affairs Office (RPAO).

So we contacted the Social Security Administration and was provided this statement:

We take the responsibility to safeguard the information entrusted to us seriously. This is a very rare occurrence, and we are looking into the issue with the Nevada Disability Determination Service (DDS).

The Nevada DDS discovered and reported that claimants received notices containing personal information for another claimant. The Nevada DDS determined it was a data transmission systems error and is working to determine how this happened in order to prevent it from happening again. The Nevada DDS is investigating how many people this has affected, but they do not believe it is widespread.

Cari is worried about other people who may not know their information has been compromised and whose claims may be adversely affected.

“But who knows who's out there that's unscrupulous or threw the mail away and it's time sensitive and then the case is dropped.

We were able to contact one claimant to give them the heads up.

In the meantime, Cari waits for her claim information to arrive and waits for answers.

Darcy: “What do you expect from them?”
Cari: “Well I expect them to do their job. I don't think that it's that tough. Just do your job and protect the people that are already vulnerable.”

Whoever's at fault, it seems both the state and federal agencies are still investigating, and still don't know how many people are affected. But the S.S.A. says this is a very rare occurrence and they don't believe it's widespread.

If you received the someone else's information in your envelope from the Nevada Department of Employement, please contact them at (775) 885-3738.