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Data for 700,000-plus home-care workers, recipients goes missing in mail

May 11, 2012 |  8:23 pm

Personal data for more than 700,000 people who provide or receive home care for the elderly and disabled may have been compromised when payroll data went missing in the mail, according to an internal government email obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The state learned of the breach on Wednesday, the email said. Hewlett Packard, which handles the payroll information for workers in California's In-Home Supportive Services program, told officials that the data disappeared when it was being shipped in the mail to a state office in Riverside.

"While we continue to investigate, at this time we can’t confirm whether the information was damaged, lost or stolen," the email said.

[Updated 9 p.m. A news release sent out late Friday said, "The package containing the information was reported as damaged while being shipped by the U.S. Postal Service and the information contained in the package was incomplete upon delivery."

The package was mailed April 26 and arrived May 1. The state wasn't notified for another week, according to information posted on a state website.

The possibly compromised information, dating from October to December 2011, for 375,000 workers included names, Social Security numbers and wages. For 326,000 recipients, state identification numbers may have been compromised.]

[Updated 8:50 p.m.: "That's unbelievable," Deborah Doctor, a lobbyist at Disability Rights California. "This will be very worrying."]

Since learning the package disappeared, the state has opened an investigation and notified law enforcement, the email said. Officials also plan to mail notices to everyone whose data may have been affected. The breach was confirmed by Oscar Ramirez, a spokesman for the California Department of Social Services.

Officials said they were reviewing state policies to prevent future problems.

Doctor said many of the low-income people in the program will have difficulty dealing with the fallout from the data breach. English is often not their first language, and some recipients are too blind to read notices from the government about the missing data.

About 40% of all workers and recipients in the program are in Los Angeles County, Doctor said.]

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

twitter.com/ChrisMegerian

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