Personal data exposed in DHHS mailing mishap

Posted July 19, 2012, at 11:28 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Department of Health and Human Services mistakenly mailed confidential information including Social Security numbers and bank account data for about 80 people to the wrong homes.

The error affected 79 people in 31 households who recently applied for public assistance or updated their information through a Web portal, according to a statement Thursday from DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

“In some cases, the information included Social Security numbers and, in rare instances, bank account information. The error occurred within an automated mailing system and has since been resolved,” Mayhew said. “I sincerely apologize to those whose information was mishandled and to those who inadvertently received it. Keeping personal information secure is, and always has been, our highest priority.”

Those whose information was mistakenly shared were notified by DHHS staff and offered identity theft insurance, free credit reports and daily credit monitoring. People who received the confidential information were instructed to return it in a postage-paid envelope.

“They are legally obligated to return it and we have reminded them that identity theft is a crime,” Mayhew said in the statement.

DHHS sends out more than 12,000 letters each week.

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