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Tricare users receive letters on stolen data

Nov. 18, 2011 - 04:36PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 18, 2011 - 04:36PM  |  
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Letters are arriving in the mailboxes of 4.9 million Tricare beneficiaries whose names and personal information were stolen in Texas in September, notifying recipients that their information was indeed among the data stolen and providing instructions for getting free credit monitoring.

The notifications, from defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., also contain report authorization forms.

Because the paperwork asks for Social Security numbers — needed for identification and monitoring purposes — Tricare is urging beneficiaries to examine the letters carefully.

"Please doublecheck the letter you received from SAIC to ensure contact information matches the toll-free phone numbers as these are the only valid phone numbers to verify authenticity and obtain assistance. Call the SAIC Incidence Response Call Center at … 1-855-366-0140; International, call collect: 1-952-556-8312," Tricare officials said in a release Friday.

The data was contained on computer disks stolen from an SAIC employee's car — a theft reported to Tricare officials Sept. 14.

In late September, Tricare announced the data loss on its website; both Tricare and SAIC have deemed the risk of the compromised information as low, but in the wake of class-action lawsuits filed against the Defense Department and SAIC, both took more proactive measures, to include notifying beneficiaries and offering credit monitoring.

"These additional proactive security measures exceed the industry standard to protect against the risk of identity theft," Brig. Gen. W. Bryan Gamble, Tricare Management Agency deputy director, said in a release.

A SAIC spokesman said the company has received reports from Tricare beneficiaries who say their information has been misused. But the company has not confirmed that the misuse is tied to the SAIC data loss, said spokesman Vernon Guidry.

"We are investigating it, pursuing those to see if it's connected," he said.

The breach involved patients seen at military hospitals and clinics in San Antonio for the past 19 years. It is among the largest losses of data health care information in the past decade.

On Nov. 14, California health care organization Sutter Medical Foundation announced that the personal information of 4 million customers was contained on a desktop computer that was stolen.

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