Seattle Archdiocese data breach hits home, and highlights need to address identity theft

Identity theft is a growing problem nationwide, and Washington is no exception. In early March 2014 the Seattle Archdiocese learned that volunteers and employees at parishes and schools across Washington state became victims of a tax-identity fraud scheme.

Through a data breach, fraudsters obtained victims’ personal information, including their names and Social Security numbers and filed false income tax returns.

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has received reports from parishioners and employees throughout Western Washington who have been victimized. Some of these individuals, including volunteers and employees of St. Mary School in Aberdeen, discovered they were victims after filing their taxes and being informed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that their tax return was rejected because a return had already been filed under their name and Social Security number.

The Archdiocese has not discovered the source of the breach and is working with federal investigators on an investigation. The Archdiocese also hired a national forensic firm to investigate this matter.

If you are a victim of tax-identity fraud, the AGO urges you to take the following steps.

Determine if you’re the victim of tax-identity fraud, then follow these corrective steps

To check if your identity has been stolen, contact the IRS by calling the Individual Tax Line at 1-800-829-1040, or go in-person to the IRS office at 915 Second Ave. Seattle, Wash.

Correcting tax-identity fraud is a multi-step process, involving the IRS, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), police and credit bureaus.

If you know your identity has been stolen

  • Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
  • Complete and file the IRS Form 14039 “Identity Theft Affidavit” (You must file a copy of your driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued identification with this).
  • Submit an “Identity Theft Report” to the FTC by following the directions on the FTC’s website, here. You will be assigned a complaint number.
  • Print and fill out a copy of the FTC’s “Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit.” This form can then be filed with local police and creditors.
  • File a report with your local police department.
  • Include a copy of the FTC Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit.
  • The police department will assign you a case or reference number.
  • Call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338 to report the assigned police case number (You will need the complaint number you obtained when you initially filed the FTC Identity Theft Report to complete this step).
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your credit report.  Learn more about a credit freeze, here.
  • Periodically request a free copy of your credit report and review it thoroughly. You can request a copy online at AnnualCreditReport.com, or by calling 1-877-322-8228 (you will be asked for your Social Security Number).
  • If someone has used your Social Security number for employment purposes, report this to the Social Security Administration. You can contact the Social Security Administration at: 1-800-772-1213.

 If your identity has not been stolen, but you believe it is vulnerable

  • Call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and ask them to place a fraud alert in your file.
  • Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report.  You can place a fraud alert by contacting one of the three major credit-reporting agencies:
    • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, website link, here.
    • Experian: 1-888-397-3742, website link, here.
    • Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289, website link, here.

You will be asked to provide your Social Security Number. The agency you contact will share your request with the other two. 

Protect yourself from identity theft

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
  • Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
  • Protect your financial information.
  • Check your credit report every 12 months.
  • Secure personal information in your home.
  • Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.

For more information about identity theft and credit freezes, visit the Attorney General’s website, here.

Visit the Seattle Archdiocese website for updates on the data breach, here.

Mason County Sheriff’s Office warns of “you have warrants” phone scam

The Mason County Sheriff’s Office is warning of a recent phone scam where someone impersonated a Deputy Sheriff from their office trying to get a social security number.

Detective Bill Adam with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office tells us a Mason County resident caught on before providing their personal information, and called the real police. That’s when a real cop called the fake one, posing as the victim’s spouse. A man answered as “the Mason County Sheriff’s Office,” but when told he was speaking with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, he brashly admitted that he uses the scam to get social security numbers and then hung up on officers.

It’s rarely a good idea to provide that type of personal information over the phone, especially when contacted and not sure of who you are talking to. Adam said even though real Deputies may in fact call people to tell them they have a warrant, a real Deputy will not ask for any individuals social security numbers over the telephone.

Mason County Sheriff Casey Salisbury stated that identity theft is one of the biggest and fastest growing crimes in the nation and that all citizens need to safeguard their personal information. The reporting person in this case is to be commended for not providing their personal information and for calling the Mason County Sheriff’s Office publicly listed number.

U.S. President declares disaster for Washington State, releasing second wave of disaster aid

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to the State of Washington to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the area affected by flooding and mudslides beginning on March 22, 2014, and continuing.

This assistance is in addition to the support provided under the Presidential Emergency Declaration granted on March 24, 2014.

The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Snohomish County, including the Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, and Tulalip Tribes.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is available to state and eligible tribal and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work due to flooding and mudslides in Snohomish County, including the lands associated with the Sauk-Suiattle, Stillaguamish, and Tulalip Tribes.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Due to the localized impacts of the disaster, FEMA will work closely with residents, tribal members, and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area on a one on one basis.

Michael J. Hall has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.  Hall said additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

 

Following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama’s major disaster declaration issued for Washington.

 

Assistance for Affected Individuals and Families Can Include as Required:

 

  • Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes were destroyed or are unlivable.  Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters.  Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements.  (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
  • Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional.  (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
  • Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation, child care assistance and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.   (Source: FEMA funded at 75 percent of total eligible costs; 25 percent funded by the state.)
  • Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.  (Source: FEMA funded; state administered.)
  • Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance.  Loans available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses.  Loans available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.  (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
  • Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact.  This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $2 million. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
  • Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.  (Source: Farm Service Agency, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.)
  • Other relief programs: Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans’ benefits and social security matters.

How to Apply for Individual Assistance:

 

  • Due to the localized impacts of the disaster, FEMA will work closely with residents, tribal members and business owners who sustained losses in the designated area on a one-on-one basis.

 

  • Affected individuals and business owners in designated areas can begin the disaster application process by registering online, at www.DisasterAssistance.gov , by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  Online registration is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers are operating from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time seven days a week until further notice. Applicants registering for aid should be prepared to provide basic information about themselves (name, permanent address, phone number), insurance coverage and any other information to help substantiate losses.

 

Assistance for the State, Tribes and Affected Local Governments Can Include as Required:

 

  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for emergency protective measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health.  Emergency protective measures assistance is available to state, tribal and eligible local governments on a cost-sharing basis. (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)
  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for recovery and cleanup from public areas and for emergency measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health, including direct federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program.(Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)

 

  • Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state, tribal and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.  (Source: FEMA funded, state administered.)

 

How to Apply for Public Assistance:

 

  • Application procedures for tribal and local governments will be explained at a series of federal/state and federal/tribal applicant briefings with locations to be announced in the affected area by recovery officials. Approved public repair projects are paid through the state from funding provided by FEMA and other participating federal agencies.

 

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

U.S. Attorney warns: Watch for ID theft during tax season

U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan joined federal law enforcement partners warning about a growing problem of identity theft related to tax refund fraud.  Scammers across the country are using other people’s personal information to try to claim income tax refunds.  People may not know they are a victim until they try to file their tax return and it is rejected because someone using their Social Security Number has already filed and claimed a refund.
 
“Protecting your personal information has never been more critical,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “Always mail your tax documents from a secure mailbox, or file electronically on a secure network.  Using a trusted tax professional and filing early can also protect you from being a victim.”
In 2013, nearly 700 Washington residents reported being a victim of tax related identity theft, and there are likely many more people who simply did not report being victimized.  Nationwide tax ID theft fraud is estimated to cost the U.S. Treasury more than $5 billion annually. 
 
“Stealing identities and trying to file false tax returns not only threatens the integrity of our tax system, it victimizes innocent people.  It can cost victims time and stress when they have done nothing wrong,” said Kenneth J. Hines, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation in the Pacific Northwest. “The men and women of IRS, along with our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s Office, will continue to pursue fraudsters who try and help themselves to our nation’s tax dollars and who cause so much heartache for the victims of this crime.”
This week as part of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service are teaming up to educate the public about ID theft tax refund fraud.  The FTC is providing a webinar tomorrow to educate tax preparers about the problem and how to assist their clients if they discover they have been the victim of tax refund ID theft.  For those who have had their identities stolen and used for fraud, the IRS will issue a special PIN to use for filing taxes.  More information on the PIN program is available at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Combats-Identity-Theft-and-Refund-Fraud-on-Many-Fronts-2014
IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Ken Hines is available to talk further with reporters about the problem of tax ID theft refund fraud.   To arrange an interview please contact Leia Bellis at (206) 464-4920 or Leia.Bellis@ci.irs.gov.
 
Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Washington Coalition of Crime Victim Advocates (WCCVA) have resources for victims of identity theft.  Find them at www.ftc.gov and www.wccva.org

Representative Derek Kilmer End of Year Report

Since taking office in January, Representative Derek Kilmer has been active both at home and in Washington, DC to work for his constituents. The following report presents Representative Kilmer’s accessibility in the region, a snapshot of benefits secured for his constituents, and a summary of his legislative efforts and accomplishments in his first year in office.

“While Congress itself continues to be something of a ‘fixer-upper,’ I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished for the people of the 6th District this year and I’m excited about how much more we can do in the coming year,” said Representative Derek Kilmer. “I’ll continue to work in a bipartisan way to get Congress back to work, to build on the recent budget agreement and move toward a long-term fiscal plan, to help our neighbors cut through red tape, and to continue producing results on the issues that matter the most to our region.”

 

Accessible to His Constituents

  • Rep. Kilmer has made it a priority to be accessible to his constituents so he can hear what’s on their minds and help them with their problems.  To that end, he has held or been accessible at the following events:
    • First and foremost, as a former economic developer, Rep. Kilmer has held 53 “Kilmer at Your Company” visits. During these events, he typically receives a tour or speaks briefly with the heads of businesses, and is accessible to employees so he can hear what’s on their minds.
    • 10 Public Town Halls
    • 4 Telephone Town Halls
    • 3 Open Office Hours
    • 2 Derek on Your Docks where he visited with commuters at the Kingston and Bainbridge island ferry docks
    • 4 Farmers Markets visits
    • 15 Rotary Meetings
    • 15 Chamber Meetings
    • Over 60 festivals, county fairs, and annual community events
    • Reached out to every mayor in the 6th District
    • Visited with leaders of all nine tribes located in the 6th District
    • Visited every major military command and facility

 

Helping Constituents Cut Through Red Tape

  • Representative Kilmer’s office has been active in helping over 500 constituents cut through red tape and resolve problems. To date, the total casework savings returned to constituents by Rep. Kilmer’s office is over half a million dollars.
    • Total Casework Savings for Constituents: $615,440.00
      • Medicare à $166,252
      • Department of Veterans Affairs/Defense Finance Accounting Service à $161,387
      • Social Security Administration à $105,928
      • Office of Personnel Management à $21,373
      • IRS à $160,500

 

Working in a Bipartisan Manner

  • In his first year in office, Rep. Kilmer has established himself as a Member of Congress who will work across the aisle to solve problems for Washington’s families. Rep. Kilmer is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus and a part of the “Bipartisan Working Group” which meets every week to discuss how to move past partisanship to create progress.
  • Rep. Kilmer is a cosponsor of the Problems Solvers Government Reform Agenda which includes provisions such as No Budget No Pay, procurement reform, and other ideas to save taxpayers money.

 

Fighting Against Sequestration and Shutdown

  • On March 1, when the across-the-board cuts caused by sequestration went into place, Rep. Kilmer stood outside the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard gate to greet workers as they arrived.
  • When sequestration led to Department of Defense (DoD) furloughs, the Department wrongly furloughed employees at Working Capital Fund sites. Those workers are legally protected from furloughs and aren’t directly funded by taxpayer dollars. In response, Rep. Kilmer led a bipartisan letter and passed an amendment on the floor of the House to exempt those employees from future sequestration-related furloughs.
  • In response to concerns he heard from shipyard workers, Rep. Kilmer passed another amendment to ensure that civilian workers wouldn’t lose their security clearances just because they’ve been furloughed as a result of sequestration. Rep. Kilmer also introduced legislation to ease the financial hardship on those civilian employees who needed to make emergency withdrawals from their retirement accounts.
  • Thousands of civilian workers were furloughed because Congress failed to do its job and replace sequestration. Just as Congress came together to provide backpay to federal workers who lost pay as a result of the government shutdown, Rep. Kilmer introduced the bipartisan Federal Employee Pay Restoration Act to ensure that we continue to support our federal workforce.
  • When Congress could not reach a compromise to keep federal agencies funded Rep. Kilmer voluntarily gave up his own pay for the duration of the government shutdown.
  • When Congress finally passed a bipartisan budget, Rep. Kilmer voted to help avert a government shutdown, and halt most of the damaging across-the-board cuts that have hurt our region. Rep. Kilmer continues to call on Congress to put together a plan to deal with our long-term fiscal health and get folks back to work.

 

Supporting Economic Growth, Financial Stability and Investments in our Future

  • Given the strong role of the military in our region, Rep. Kilmer passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to reauthorize a program known as the IT Exchange Program to provide for workforce exchanges between the DoD and private employers.
  • As a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Rep. Kilmer has been active in the effort to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, a bill focused on strengthening national research policy and STEM education efforts to improve American competitiveness.  Specifically, he led an effort of the New Democratic Coalition to develop a list of strong legislative principles for the reauthorization effort.
  • Rep. Kilmer introduced the bipartisan Transfer Act to support early commercialization of research efforts and expand economic development from early research. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee voted in December to move the legislation forward.
  • Recognizing the need to invest in our workforce, Rep. Kilmer introduced the Skills Investment Act, which would help workers save for education and job training through the establishment of worker-owned, employer-matched savings plans called Lifelong Learning Accounts.
  • Rep. Kilmer introduced the bipartisan American Savings Promotion Act, a bill to make it easier for financial institutions to offer products that incentivize individuals to build their savings. This bill was recently featured on PBS Newshour.
  • As our military installations face encroachment challenges, Rep. Kilmer led a delegation letter to Gov. Inslee and successfully pushed for funding key investments to ensure the long-term viability of these national assets.
  • As Congress considers final passage of the Farm Bill, Rep. Kilmer is pushing for strong funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • Our communities are made stronger when loving families open their hearts and homes to needy children and become adoptive parents. Rep. Kilmer introduced the Adoption Tax Credit Tribal Parity Act, which would ensure that parents who adopt Native American children with special needs get the tax relief that Congress intended for them to have.

 

Preserving Natural Resources

  • Rep. Kilmer worked closely with Rep. Heck to create the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus devoted exclusively to promoting Puget Sound cleanup efforts.
  • Rep. Kilmer is working on legislation to help strengthen our ability to monitor ocean acidification to protect our natural resources and local economic engines.
  • Rep. Kilmer established a collaborative that will bring together a wide range of stakeholders looking to move past the timber wars of the past and instead focus on what steps we can take to promote forest health and support economic growth in our region.

 

Supporting Servicemembers, Veterans, and their Families

  • After hearing from servicemembers and veterans who have experienced discrimination, Rep. Kilmer introduced legislation that would prohibit discrimination against veterans and servicemembers seeking employment or housing opportunities.
  • Rep. Kilmer’s Veterans Advisory Group has kicked off several initiatives to ensure that those who have served get the resources they need.
  • Native American veterans face obstacles in receiving federal assistance to help fight homelessness. Rep. Kilmer introduced the Housing Native Heroes Act to ensure that the successful HUD-VASH voucher program can help reduce homelessness among our Native American veterans.

 

Protecting National Security

  • The threat of cyber attacks represents one of our nation’s largest national security challenges, but cybersecurity technologies are also an emerging industry within our region.  Rep. Kilmer is pursuing ways to connect local institutions of higher learning with federal agencies and the private sector to provide valuable on-the-job training in the cyber field.
  • Our intelligence and law enforcement officials must have the resources they need to keep us safe but there must also be clear and firm rules to guide their work so Americans’ civil liberties are protected.  Rep. Kilmer was active in the effort to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing & Protection Act.
  • Rep. Kilmer is working with his colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee to refine the way that the government spends taxpayer money, pursuing opportunities for procurement reform.
  • Rep. Kilmer used his position on the House Armed Services Committee to advocate for critical infrastructure investments at Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.  These projects will help our service members and civilian employees execute their missions and help to ensure our installations remain strong into the future.

 

Investing in Local Infrastructure

  • Ports are essential engines of economic growth throughout our region. As the House considers final passage of the Water Resources Development Act, Rep. Kilmer is pushing to maintain provisions that support our small ports and harbors and help address the “donor port” status that creates competitiveness issues for the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle.
  • After reaching out to a number of stakeholders, Rep. Kilmer helped stand up an infrastructure working group focused on addressing the needs of the South Kitsap Industrial Area.
  • Communities throughout our region are today vulnerable due to the threat posed by a tsunami. Rep. Kilmer is working at both the state and federal level to enhance coastal resiliency.

Washington state health exchange ready to launch

Washington residents have six months to buy health insurance through the new exchange during the first enrollment period, which ends in March.

They can sign up online at the Washington Healthplanfinder, on the telephone or in person at community centers, fire stations, libraries, churches and during special events.

The state hopes to enroll 130,000 people for health insurance in 2014 and another 280,000 in 2015, said Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.

The state estimates about a million Washington state residents do not have health insurance, or about one in seven people. About 325,000 will be eligible to sign up for free insurance through Medicaid.

Others will get a discount on their insurance through a credit on their federal taxes. To find out if they qualify for a tax credit or may be eligible for Medicaid or another program for free insurance for kids, people will need to fill out forms online or access the exchange by telephone or in person.

The exchange will ask for some personal information, such as Social Security numbers, ages and income, but people who just want to check it out and not sign up yet can do so anonymously. The length of the sign-up process depends on how many people live in a household and how much comparison shopping is done.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people who don’t have insurance in 2014 will pay a fine when they file their federal income taxes in early 2015. The fines for people who ignore the new law are scheduled to increase over time.

“We want 6.5 million people to go to healthplanfinder to check it out,” Marchand said.

He said testing and training has been done to handle a lot of visitors with different needs, and the website has been stress tested to handle large numbers of visitors.

“We understand anything could be possible and we’ve taken the steps to make sure we’re ready for that,” Marchand said.

AP Correspondent Rachel La Corte contributed to this story from Olympia.

Online:

Washington Healthplanfinder: http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org

On the telephone:

1-855-923-4633 on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

BBB already sick of Affordable Care Act scams

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 15% of Washington State residents are uninsured, and these people may face fines for not acquiring coverage.

 

BBB reminds insurance shoppers:

Don’t trust caller IDs. Scammers possess the technology to spoof caller IDs, displaying any phone number or organization name they please.

Don’t press any buttons and don’t call back.  Some reports indicate that initial calls are automated and request that recipients dial numbers to enter account information or reach representatives; don’t do it.

Don’t give out personal information. Never give personal information to unsolicited callers; avoid sharing Social Security Numbers, birthdates or medical information.

 

To learn more about the Affordable Care Act or the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit healthcare.gov. To stay current on other local scams, make an appointment with BBB’s News Center at akorww.bbb.org/bbb-news.

State Representative Derek Kilmer urges Congress to avoid shutdown

PORT ANGELES, Wash. – State Representative Derek Kilmer spoke on the floor of the House this morning to urge Congress to stop partisan games and avoid a government shutdown. “As we all know on September 30th the government will run out of funding.”
The Democratic Congressman explained how the shutdown could affect his constituents. “For folks back home on the Olympic Peninsula, and around Puget Sound, a shutdown would have serious consequences. Troops in JBLM and workers of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard could go without pay. Olympic National Park could close to tourists. Senior citizens could be delayed in receiving checks for Social Security, [and] veterans may go without the benefits and care that they have earned.”
Much of the federal government will cease operation in 10 days unless Congress passes new legislation, referred to as a continuing resolution, to keep the lights on.  Meanwhile House republicans are hoping to use the legislation to defund obamacare, with an amendment to prohibit funding to implement the new healthcare law.

Backup Device Stolen From Employee at Grays Harbor Pediatrics Contained Personal Information

ABERDEEN, Wash. – Grays Harbor Pediatrics discovered on November 23, 2010 that a computer backup device was stolen from a Grays Harbor Pediatric employee. The backup device was used for storing copies of paper records. Grays Harbor Pediatrics has notified all patients and patient billing guarantors.

An investigation of the data has revealed that information stored on the back up device may have included personal information ranging from Social Security numbers, insurance details, driver’s license information, medical history forms, immunization records, previous doctor records, and patients’ medical records which were scanned and maintained in a paper format. Banking information was not stored on this digital device and therefore not breached.

Grays Harbor Pediatrics has secured all current software applications by changing passwords, implementing new encryption software and updating security protocols to ensure that no patient information may be compromised. In addition to procedural changes, Grays Harbor Pediatrics has contracted with ID Experts® to provide an informational toll-free number and website to answer questions about this incident. Patients with questions regarding this incident can visit www.PediatricsSecure.com or call 1-877-810-7248.

This press release is in accordance with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Grays Harbor Pediatrics has notified patients, billing guarantors and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

FEMA Warns of Increased Wildfire Risk for Summer of 2010

FEMA recommends that residents take specific actions long before an evacuation is necessary.
  • Clear any flammable materials from around the home.
  • Construct roofs and exterior walls from non-combustible or fire resistant material such as slate, tile, sheet iron, aluminum, brick or stone. 
  • Treat wood siding, cedar shingles, exterior wood paneling and other highly combustible materials with fire retardant chemicals.
  • Clean roof surfaces and gutters free of pine needles, leaves, and branches regularly.
  • Space landscape plants to limit fire from spreading to surrounding vegetation or structures.
  • Maintain fuel breaks around all structures.
  • Store gasoline only in approved containers, and well away from occupied buildings.
  • Store firewood and other combustibles away from structures.
  • Keep firefighting tools (such as ladders, shovels, rakes and water buckets) handy, and water hoses connected.
  • House numbers and all street signs should be clear of overgrowth and always be visible.
  • Clear roads and driveways of vegetation overgrowth so fire vehicles have room to maneuver.
  • Place a lawn sprinkler on the roof, which can be turned on when evacuating to wet the roof.
 
It is also smart to keep important personal documents quickly available should you need to evacuate. Consider collecting your driver’s license, passport and other identification, birth and marriage certificates, Social Security card, insurance policies, tax records, wills, deed or lease and stocks and bonds. Also, know where your main turn-off switches are for electricity, water and gas.

Another important step that FEMA recommends is preparing an evacuation kit. Items should be put in a container that can be easily loaded into a vehicle for a quick departure. Items to include:

  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered radio with additional batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medicines, prescriptions and eyeglasses
  • Water (at least one gallon per person and enough for three days for each person in the household)
  • Change of clothing
  • Sleeping bags and pillows
  • Cash and credit cards
 
FEMA also recommends that family members discuss how to contact one another if the wildfire comes near when family members are separated. Discuss evacuation routes and identify relatives or friends outside the immediate area that can be contacted. Finally, make sure your pets have collars and identification tags and take your pets with you if you need to evacuate. While some shelters won’t accept pets, an increasing number of communities are organizing pet shelters when large evacuations are necessary. Check with your local Humane Society, animal shelter or veterinarian.
 
For more information on protecting your family and your home from wildfires, go to www.fema.gov, or www.ready.gov.
 
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.