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Stolen Laptop Prompts Wake to Hire ID Theft Specialist

Wake County on Thursday hired a company to watch for potential identity theft after a computer containing personal information about patients and paramedics was stolen.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County on Thursday hired a company to watch for potential identity theft because a computer containing personal information about county paramedics and patients was stolen.

The laptop, which belongs to Wake County Emergency Medical Services, was taken from the emergency department at WakeMed on Jan. 17. Paramedics use laptop computers to create medical reports that they upload to hospital computer systems when they bring patients to emergency rooms.

Private information, including Social Security numbers and medical data, on up to 1,188 patients and information on 3,545 EMS and fire and rescue personnel might be stored on the computer, officials said Thursday.

"We are taking a very aggressive approach in our response to the missing laptop," Wake County EMS Chief Skip Kirkwood said in a statement. "We are paying for identity-protection services for everyone whose name may have been accessible through the laptop, not just the ones with a Social Security number."

The county hired National ID Recovery LLC, which specializes in monitoring potential fraud cases, to help citizens and employees place fraud alerts with the three national credit bureaus, order copies of their credit reports for review and provide identity-theft monitoring.

County officials said they planned to send out letters Friday to everyone whose personal information may have been stored on the missing laptop. The letter will outline precautionary measures people should take, including information on how to receive free identity protection services from National ID Recovery for the next year.

The county's Information Services Department is installing specialized data encryption software on a targeted group of devices, including all EMS laptops. EMS also developed a policy for storing, handling and responding to loss of Patient Care Reporting System laptop computers.

People who want to enroll in the National ID Recovery monitoring program are asked to call 1-800-836-5679 and speak with a trained paralegal.

The Panasonic Toughbook laptop, model CF29, has a silver and black casing and a handle and has a Wake County property label with the identification number DP 16096.

Anyone with information about the computer is asked to contact EMS District Chief Jeffrey Hammerstein at 919-625-3260.

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