AUSTIN -- A laptop with thousands of patients' personal information was stolen from a Southeast Austin medical clinic. Now police are looking for the thief, and the hospital is doing damage control to make sure their patients don't become victims of identity theft.
The Seton Healthcare Family says the laptop was stolen from the Seton McCarthy Clinic between 5:30 p.m. Thursday Oct. 3 and 9 a.m. Friday Oct. 4. The clinic is located at 2811 E. Second St.
According to a press release from Seton, its "investigation determined that the stolen laptop included demographic information about patients seen at Seton McCarthy, Seton Topfer and Seton Kozmetsky community health centers and the Seton Total Health Partners program.
"Obviously the more information exposed the greater the risk," said Joe Ross, president and co-founder of identity protection company CSID. "Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S. and globally, and it happens on a daily basis. So many people put information on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, that even if an identity thief gets a small amount of information, they can go on to the Web and underground chat rooms and engineer the rest of the identity."
Seton says due to a "missed technology glitch during installation," the laptop did not have encryption software installed as required by Seton policy.
More than two weeks after the laptop went missing, a letter is going out to all patients who are at risk. Seton is also paying for CSID to provide identity theft protection for up to one year. Information is also available on Seton’s website, www.seton.net. Patients who receive notification letters and have questions can telephone, toll-free, (855) 724-2743.
"We'll monitor your credit file. We'll alert you if there's any changes in your credit. They're offering criminal or court record monitoring to alert you if someone has used your identity to commit a crime," said Ross.
While hospital officials don't believe someone took the laptop with the goal of stealing identities, they're playing it safe just in case.
Austin police are handling the case but say they have exhausted all leads and have suspended the case for now. Officials with Seton Healthcare say they have enhanced security at all facilities and so far no patients have come forward with any reports of identity theft.