A billing company that does business with Los Angeles County hospitals and clinics revealed Thursday a security breach at its Torrance office in February may have compromised the personal data of twice as many people as initially thought.
Sutherland Healthcare Solutions also released images of the suspect for the first time since the break-in, and offered a $25,000 reward for information that could help solve the case.
Los Angeles County officials publicly reported the break-in last month, explaining a thief broke into Sutherland’s Torrance office on February 5 and made off with several computers that contained the names, Social Security numbers, and certain medical and billing information of 168,500 patients of the county Departments of Health Services and Public Health.
On Thursday, county spokesman David Sommers said Sutherland identified 170,200 additional patients whose personal data may have been stolen.
“As Sutherland explained it to us, they continued their forensic analysis of what could have been on the computer systems and that’s when they discovered that there were additional files,” he said.
Sommers said information does not appear to have been used for fraudulent transactions.
“We’ve not received any specific reports of identity theft or fraudulent use associated with this,” he said.
Sutherland will issue notices to the affected patients on Friday, informing them about the break-in and offering them free credit monitoring services for a year. Its spokesman, Eric Rose, said the county had known from the beginning that the number could go up.
“(Sutherland) has always told L.A. County that they expected the number to grow,” he said. “We gave them an initial number based on what they could identify early on, but a much more detailed forensic analysis revealed later that potentially more people would be affected by the crime.”
Also Thursday, Sutherland released photos of the suspect that had been taken by security cameras. Rose described him as black, heavyset adult of unknown age and height, who wore gloves, dark jeans, a dark sweatshirt and a dark hat with white insignia. He had bright blue shoes, a large watch on his left wrist, and an earring on his left ear.
Rose added that the man entered the building at night, broke down two locked doors, including a security door, and stole eight HP Pro 3400 computer towers.
Sutherland’s vice president for health care compliance, Karen Pugh, explained the company did not immediately release the photos on the advice of the Torrance Police Department, which is handling the investigation.
“We did not release the pictures until they gave us the go-ahead to do so,” she said.
©2014 the Daily News (Los Angeles)
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