OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – More than 5,000 Oklahoma families are worried about identify theft.
Their personal information may have been compromised when they gave it to the State of Oklahoma.
The victims of this latest data breach are vulnerable families, including children with disabilities and adults with intellectual disabilities.
The breach was three months ago, during a 24-hour period on December 7th and 8th, according to the Department of Human Services (DHS).
International hackers compromised a server inside the network of DHS contractor, Liberty of Oklahoma.
Liberty was hired by the state to analyze the 5,000 disabled Oklahomans waiting for state services.
The victims are disabled children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
Hackers had access to names, addresses, dates of birth and social security numbers for the person with a disability and some sensitive information of caretakers.
According to DHS, the information was on an excel spreadsheet which had been emailed to Liberty and stored on an unsecured server.
“They’re angry,” said disability advocate, RoseAnn Duplan, of the Disability Law Center. “They’re worried because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Liberty has offered one year of free credit monitoring.
But some families are having trouble accessing that protection.
Parents of minor children say the code they were given only works for adults.
Caregivers of disabled adults say they cannot be granted access to credit monitoring without a power of attorney.
“I was really angry about this data breach because this is a company that this is their business,” said Oklahoma mother, Amy Smith.
Smith is the legal guardian for her adult son.
Joseph Morgan is non-verbal and cannot communicate with the credit monitoring service Experian to verify his identity.
“I went online to set up the credit monitoring, and they could not verify his credit history. Of course he has no credit history,” Smith said. “So, I called the number, and they said we can’t talk to you on his behalf because of this identify theft issue.”
Experian insisted on a power of attorney to set up credit monitoring, but Smith doesn’t have power of attorney for her adult son. Many Oklahoma families caring for disabled adults do not have a power of attorney in place.
“To get a power of attorney for him is just laughable because I would have to sign the power of attorney. I am his legal representative,” said Smith. “So, I think I’m going to do a one year credit freeze, and that’s what I’m going to do. That will be my solution.
The families affected by this breach are participating in a statewide research project; the state-funded survey is being conducted by Liberty.
“Unfortunately, it’s making them very hesitant to do the survey, if they haven’t already done it, the assessment. They’re worried about what’s going to happen with that data,” said Duplan.
Liberty of Oklahoma tells us they have straightened out the issue with power of attorney and now are providing a special code for minors affected by the breach to access free credit monitoring.
The DHS issued this statement about the breach and credit monitoring challenges:
“OKDHS takes very seriously our responsibility to keep our customers’ personal information safe and holds those with whom we contract to the same high standard for data security. Liberty responded to this situation within one day, quickly minimizing any third-party access, and they are taking steps to ensure customers’ personal information is protected, including offering identity protection services. This situation is emblematic of the very changes OKDHS is trying to make within our service systems, including bringing in modern technology systems that don’t rely upon excel spreadsheets within emails.
“We understand the concern this situation will undoubtedly cause for our waiting list families. At the same time, the person-centered assessments offered through Liberty are a critical piece to providing navigation services to individuals while they are on the waiting list and helping the agency build a service array that will meet the unique needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families for years to come. We hope families will continue to take the assessments and help us make Oklahoma a no wait state.”