Personal information of Coloradans reapplying for food and cash assistance was sent to individuals not connected with those applications, according to an announcement from the Colorado Department of Human Resources.
The department disclosed last week that the information of 12,230 individuals was placed incorrectly on 10,879 notices to reapply.
“No personal information was shared with other clients except names and, in some cases, an employer,” a flyer with frequently asked questions read. “Other information was generic such as ‘car.’”
The FAQ then provided links to learn about what to do to address potential identity theft.
However, a template letter provided by the department noted that the personal information shared also included “Money in your Home (Employer Information),” “Does anyone get any OTHER type of money,” “Things You Pay For” and “Things You Own.”
Mark Techmeyer, the department’s communications director, said the state immediately stopped producing notices once aware of the problem.
“This issue was resolved on Nov. 10 by fixing the root cause of the technical error,” he said.
The department asserted that Social Security numbers, dates of birth and addresses were not listed. Nevertheless, the department admitted that this was a breach of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which protects the confidentiality of individuals’ health information.
Four days after discovering the error, the state sent corrected notices and advised recipients to shred the previous notice or surrender it to their county. The state became aware of the problem on Nov. 6 but did not announce the incident until more than three weeks later, on Nov. 29.
“We needed to ensure that the individuals that received the incorrect notice to reapply were notified and to correct the issue, and obviously notify the affected individuals,” Techmeyer said of the delay.
The department used the time to set up one year of free credit monitoring and a corresponding toll-free number for those involved in the mistake.
The department said that the error affected no one’s benefits and offered its “deepest apologies.”
Applicants for financial assistance typically must reapply every 12 months. Techmeyer estimated adult financial assistance cases numbered at about 26,000, while Temporary Assistance for Needy Families covered 15,300 cases, and food assistance amounted to 310,101 reapplication notices.