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TriWest Answers Questions on Stolen Computer Info, Increased Security

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2003 – Officials at TRICARE contractor TriWest say they're working with Pentagon security experts to ensure the medical records and personal information of millions of beneficiaries remain safe.

Computers stolen from TriWest's corporate office in Phoenix, Ariz., last Dec. 14 had hard drives containing the medical records of its TRICARE beneficiaries. Records included patient medical histories, Social Security and other personal information.

"You can be assured that TriWest is coordinating with the Department of Defense to reinforce our existing security system, both physical and electronic," a TriWest official said. "We are working diligently to ensure the integrity of the data we manage on the government's behalf."

In recent months, the company has been working to calm the fears that beneficiaries have had about identity theft. There have been no verified cases of any misuse of the stolen data thus far, the official said.

TriWest officials have set up a Web site at www.triwest.com to answer questions beneficiaries may have about the possibility of their personal information being misused. They recommended interested persons read "ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name," a Federal Trade Commission publication available in text and Adobe Acrobat.pdf formats at www.consumer.gov/idtheft/index.html.

FTC operates an ID theft Web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft/. Also on the site is a links page at www.consumer.gov/idtheft/consumertopics_bk.html that leads to a host of consumer-oriented sites and references .

There is also a toll free number 1-888-339-9378, where beneficiaries can call to find out if their Social Security number was part of the computer database that was stolen.

TriWest mailed letters to all affected beneficiaries in December that informed them about the incident and what to do to help protect against the unauthorized used of their information.

Company officials also said beneficiaries and their service branches will not be affected by the theft and that TRICARE benefits, services, enrollment, and claims will continue uninterrupted.

Because all patient information stolen in the break-in was stored on backup drives, beneficiaries need not contact DEERS or the Social Security Administration about the incident, neither will beneficiaries need to fill out another enrollment form to retain benefits or continued used in TRICARE Prime.

TriWest is offering $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the theft. Investigators are asking anyone with information to contact "Silent Witness" at 1-800-343-8477 (TIPS).

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