US agency loses data containing 26 million IDs

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Monday warnedmilitary veterans about the potential for identity theft afterpersonal data on up to 26.5 million VA clients was stolen from ananalyst’s home.

The unidentified VA analyst violated agency policy by takinghome data containing the names, Social Security numbers and datesof birth of the veterans and their spouses, the VA said in astatement. The agency has placed the analyst on administrativeleave while it conducts an investigation into the data theft.

The break-in occurred this month, the VA said. The stolen datadid not include any VA electronic health records or financialinformation. As of Monday, there is no evidence of the stolen databeing used in ID theft schemes, and authorities believe it’sunlikely the thieves were targeting the data during the break-in,the VA said.

The VA did not immediately identify how the data was stored inthe analyst’s home.

The VA has briefed the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S.Federal Trade Commission about the data theft, and President GeorgeBush’s Identity Theft Task Force has already begun alerting creditbureaus about the potential problems, the VA said.

As of Monday, the VA was not advising veterans to contact creditbureaus or their financial institutions unless they suspectedsuspicious activity.

The VA has ordered all employees to complete a cybersecurityawareness course by June 30, and all employees with access tosensitive data will be required to undergo a new background check,the agency said.

Veterans concerned about ID theft can go to or for moreinformation. The VA has also set up a call center for informationon the data theft and consumer identity protections. That toll-freenumber is +1-800-FED INFO (333-4636). The call center, openingMonday, will operate from 8 am to 9 p.m. EDT Mondays throughSaturdays for “as long as it is needed,” the VA said.

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