A laptop computer with the names, addresses, birthdates and Social Security numbers of about 133,000 Florida residents was stolen late last month from a government vehicle that was being used by an agent of the US Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General (OIG) in Miami. In an announcement Wednesday, the OIG's office said the laptop was taken from the parked vehicle on 27 July. Investigators said they do not believe it was taken for the personal information that it contained.
OIG spokesman David Barnes said Thursday in an email reply to questions that the agent's government-owned vehicle was parked and locked outside a restaurant in Doral, Fla., when the theft occurred. "The agent noticed the laptop was missing at the end of the day when he returned home and picked up the computer case, which felt light," Barnes said. "He opened it and discovered that the Dell Latitude laptop and its charger [were] missing. He searched his home and office. When he and his supervisor subesquentluy inspected the vehicle, they found that one of the door locks had been tampered with."
According to the OIG, the laptop was password-protected and contained four databases with personal information on about 42,792 Florida pilots, 80,667 Miami-Dade County commercial driver's licence (CDL) holders and 9496 people who received their driver's licences and/or CDLs from a licensing examining facility. No financial or medical information was on the laptop, the OIG said.
The data was being used by the agency in connection with multiagency task forces focusing on the use of fraudulent information to obtain CDLs or airman certificates, according to the agency. The Tampa-area driver's licensing data was used as part of an ongoing investigation involving fraud at the licensing facility.
"We are making every effort to recover the stolen laptop and resecure the data it contains," Acting Inspector General Todd J. Zinser said in a statement. "We seriously regret this matter and take our responsibilities seriously. We have taken action and will continue to take steps necessary to prevent this from happening again."
A reward has been offered by the OIG for the return of the stolen laptop.
The agency said it is now taking measures to ensure that no other OIG laptops or portable devices assigned to field offices and headquarters employees contain such data. It is also tightening policies regarding laptop computer use.
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