Oklahoman Unhappy With Identity At-Risk

Wednesday, May 6th 2009, 4:56 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Terry Hood, The News On 6

UNDATED -- Three times in the last couple of months, personal information about Oklahoma citizens that was on computers or computer drives has been lost or stolen.  One was a flash drive lost in Dallas by a worker in the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The other information was on laptops from the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency and the Department of Human Services.       

In each case, people have gotten letters warning them that their personal information may be in jeopardy.  Now, state leaders are looking for ways to prevent it from happening.

Oklahoma is one of only four states in the country that does not have someone looking out for your personal information.  While plans to change that were announced on Wednesday, one man who is worried about his identity being stolen says it's too late.

"I felt basically betrayed by the system," said John.

John is upset with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.  He asked that his last name not be used, but he was shocked to learn his personal information was on a laptop stolen from a DHS worker.

"Each call I make and each person I talk to with the Department of Human Services or somewhere else about this situation gets me more and more concerned and worried because the answers I'm getting are screwy," said John.

DHS calls the security threat low, saying the system is protected by double passwords, but the agency has warned John and other clients to be on the lookout for possible identity theft.

"It's a joke, it's an insult to people's intelligence," said John.

John says a warning isn't enough and wants the state to pay for him to track his credit.

"I'm on a fixed income, I can't afford to pay these credit bureaus or for Lifelock, I can't afford to pay that," said John.

"People are quite angry and, I think, they should be," said Dan Yost, a technology specialist.

Now, legislators want to create a chief information officer, someone who would be in charge of securing the state's electronic information.

"We're supposed to be the stewards of this information that people give us and we're not fulfilling that responsibility," said Representative Jason Nelson, an Oklahoma City Republican.

John isn't impressed.  He says the plan is not enough to help him or others who may already be at risk.  

"That's closing the barn door after the horses escaped. There needs to be something done for the people that has already been affected by this," said John.

A spokeswoman for DHS says agency can't afford to pay for the clients at risk to get a credit check since the number is more than a million people.  But, she does emphasize the risk of identity theft is very low.