County Warns Employees Personal Info May Have Been Compromised


Humboldt County Courthouse - FILE
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  • Humboldt County Courthouse
The county of Humboldt just sent a letter to all of its more than 2,000 employees, warning that their personal information — including driver's license numbers, social security numbers and bank routing information — may have been compromised.

According to the letter, it’s unclear how many county employees this affects.

In the letter, which is signed by Sheriff William Honsal and County Administrative Officer Amy Nilsen, the county states that the sheriff’s office received an anonymous tip that led to its serving a search warrant in Trinity County, where it recovered “several file boxes” of county documents, including payroll records.

Honsal told the Journal that the tip came via a Trinity County sheriff's deputy who had been approached by a resident there who said he'd recovered what appeared to be Humboldt County payroll records from a residence. The Trinity County Sheriff's Office then alerted Humboldt County on Sept. 7, and Honsal put an investigative team on it that readied a search warrant for the residence in question.
“Safeguarding our employees’ information is a top priority, and we are approaching this incident with the utmost seriousness,” the letter states. “As soon as county administration was notified, an investigation was immediately launched in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office into this potentially criminal matter. As a part of our investigation, the county has engaged outside experts that specialize in data loss and recovery. This investigation is ongoing and until it concludes we will not know the scope of the incident.”

The letter states the county believes “most of the documents” have now been recovered and are “now stored in a secured facility.”

It’s unclear where the records were being stored, when they went missing, who took them or what other records remain unaccounted for.

County spokesman Sean Quincey said it appears the records included those of current and some former employees, but the county won't know the scope of the breach until conducting an audit of the recovered records and comparing the result with others in the county's possession.

"We're devoting a considerable amount of resources to getting to the bottom of this and, as soon as we get to the bottom of it, we'll have a lot more answers," he said.

Honsal said there are essentially parallel investigations in progress right now. The sheriff's office is conducting a criminal investigation as the county administrative office is looking into how the breach occurred, where these records were taken from and when they may have gone missing. The sheriff stressed that while it is suspected these documents were taken with criminal intent — i.e., to commit identity theft or other forms of fraud — that has not yet been confirmed.

He urged anyone with information about the case to call his office at 445-7251.

The Journal will update this story as it develops. See the full letter below.

See related PDF Message_to_County_Employees.pdf

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