Millions of hospital billing records stolen in Utah
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) ” Billing records of 2.2 million people at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics were stolen from a vehicle after a courier failed to immediately take them to a storage center, authorities said Tuesday.
The records, described as backup information tapes, contained Social Security numbers of 1.3 million people treated at the university over the last 16 years, said Lorris Betz, senior vice president for health sciences.
Betz said people would be notified by letter at a cost of about $500,000 just for stamps and envelopes. The hospital also pledged free credit monitoring. FBI agents who specialize in identity theft are working the case.
“They have this obviously as a high priority,” said Tim Fuhrman, head of the FBI in Utah.
The records involved patients and people responsible for paying for treatment, such as parents of minors.
The records were in a gray metal box. The courier picked them up in his Ford Explorer on June 1. But instead of driving directly to a storage center, he worked a second job and then went home, said Shane Manwaring, Salt Lake County deputy sheriff.
The next day, he discovered that someone had broken into his vehicle outside his Kearns home and taken the box, Manwaring said.
Authorities declined to say how easy or difficult it would be to read the records. But they believe it’s unlikely the information would be compromised.
They refused to describe the format or whether the information was on a disk. Sheriff Jim Winder said he believes the thief probably thought the box contained money.
“They were probably a little disappointed to find the tape,” Winder said.
The courier, whose name was not released, worked for Perpetual Storage Inc. for 18 years and was fired.
James Nowa, vice president of Perpetual Storage, called the theft a “tragic incident” and the first in the company’s 40 years.
About 80 percent of the 2.2 million people live in Utah or Idaho, hospital officials said.
The hospital is offering a $1,000 reward for the records.
The hospital regularly sends backup information to a secure, mountainside vault to prevent the complete loss of records in case of fire or earthquake.
Betz apologized for the theft and said the hospital has worked with Perpetual Storage for 12 years without any incidents.
“Quite honestly we were shocked when this occurred,” he said.
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