Freeholders Call On Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield To Improve Security And Customer Protection In Wake Of Data Theft

freeholder little TLSIn the wake of the theft of two laptop computers containing personal data on thousands of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield customers, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders is calling on the insurance carrier to improve security.

“That this highly personal information could so easily be removed from your building and possibly used by identity thieves to open fraudulent accounts and destroy credit ratings is completely unacceptable,” said Freeholders Joseph H. Vicari and Gerry P. Little in a letter to Robert A. Marino, CEO of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“Why was this sensitive data not encrypted? Were these computers protected by security cameras and additional onsite security?” the Freeholders said in the letter.

The insurance company began notifying customers in early December that their personal data, including medical records, names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers may have been on one of the laptops stolen from the company’s headquarters in Newark.

The Freeholders asked why it took Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield more than a month to notify customers of the potential danger.

The theft occurred sometime between November 1 and 3, while the letters did not go out until December 6.

The fear is thieves could use the personal data on the computers, which was not encrypted, to steal identities, open fraudulent credit card accounts and destroy credit ratings.

While the insurance carrier is offering one year of free protection from a private identity theft protection service, the Freeholders said more is needed.

“The offer should immediately be increased to five years,” Vicari and Little said. “Also, we are asking that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey create a liability fund to assist any customers who may be the victim of identity theft.”

The Freeholders also forwarded a copy of their letter to Marino to the local legislative districts in hopes that legislation can be crafted to further protect customers from this kind of harm.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is one of the state’s largest health insurance agencies and provides coverage to numerous public and private employees.
It is not known how many Ocean County residents were among the names included on the stolen laptops.

Vicari is liaison to the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs and Department of Employee Relations. Little is liaison to the Ocean County Health Department. [TLS]

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