Social security numbers of nearly 20,000 Forsyth County residents were released in an error that went undisclosed for a month, according to a letter many received Monday from the county tax commissioner.
“On November 18, 2016, my Office became aware of an inadvertent release of certain property tax digest-related information, a portion of which contained the social security numbers of some county property owners. This information was erroneously made available electronically to two authorized parties, who had requested other non-confidential tax digest data,” said Matthew Ledbetter in the letter dated Dec. 19.
It continued, “The matter was brought to our attention by one of the two parties who had authorized access to and subsequently downloaded the file. Once we were notified that a downloaded file contained social security numbers, the FTP (File Transfer Protocol) portal was immediately shut down and the file which contained the confidential information was removed.”
One of the parties, reportedly without knowing social security information was in the file, “re-transmitted the information to three business affiliates.”
Each affiliate reportedly deleted the file, the letter said, and the data “did not contain dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, nor any other form of confidential information.”
Ledbetter stressed the information leak was “not due to any form of hack, cyber-attack or other malicious activity, and Forsyth County’s data systems have in no manner been compromised.”
Jodi Gardner, spokeswoman for the county government, said the number of affected records and notification letters sent was 19,793, as of Tuesday morning.
The Tax Commissioner’s Office is offering those affected MyIDCare services, which include a year’s worth of credit monitoring, a $1 million insurance reimbursement policy, identity theft educational materials and recovery services.
The deadline to sign up for the free service is March 20, 2017.
“While I am confident this inadvertent release has been contained, I also recognize the very serious nature of this error,” Ledbetter said in an emailed statement to the Forsyth County News. “For this oversight, I personally take full responsibility and I sincerely apologize for the concern and inconvenience this may cause our citizens. I have taken measures to ensure errors of this type do not happen again and will continuously evaluate our practices and procedures to safeguard the integrity of your information.”
He did not further detail what steps he has taken or will take to safeguard citizen’s information.
“We are in the process of contacting by direct mail those individuals who may have been directly affected by this lapse,” he said.
The incident hotline can be reached at 1(844) 256-8540 Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., and the MyIDCare website can be found at myidcare.com/forsythcountyga.