State Employee Error Puts Thousands of North Dakotans at Risk of Identity Theft

The North Dakota Department of Human Services is working to fix mishandling of sensitive medical records.

In May a Department of Human Services worker threw away thousands of Medicaid documents
containing personal information of more than 2,400 Medicaid recipients.

The documents were found in a dumpster in Bismarck and when the department learned of the mistake they started notifying those affected.

But one security specialist says there are steps we can all take to protect our identity.

In 2016 alone, a report by a  private research firm found 15 million people in the U.S. were victims of identity fraud.

And it isn’t technology that is the top contributor to fraud.

“The number one factor or leading cause of identity theft or security incidences or breaches is the human element,” John Nagel, cyber security specialist says.

But what happens when keeping your information private is out of your control?

“If you think your information has been compromised the first thing you need to do is report it,”  Nagel says.

Nagel recommends you visit identitytheft.gov where you can start the process of protecting your information or recovering it.

It’s important to not only protect yourself online through free credit monitoring sites, but offline too. If you’re asked for personal information, don’t say your information, write  it down, and pass it on.

Because the repercussions for identity theft could be long lasting.

“It could be crippling and it could be crippling for a lifetime,”  Nagel says.

It is important to protect personal, financial, and medical information.

Your date of birth, social security number, loans on file, and insurance plan could all be used in identity fraud .

A 2017 identity fraud study shows identity theft cost the U.S. $16 billion in 2016 and could cost a person thousands to fully recover what was lost.
 
The Department of Human Services says it was an unfortunate error that caused the mistake.

“This was a situation where an employee made a poor decision,” Chris Jones, executive director North Dakota Department of Human Services says.

The department is reaching out offering anyone effected by the mistake a year of free credit monitoring.

The Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services has been notified of the mistake.

They are reviewing the case and will determine if the department will be subject to any potential fines.
 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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