Laptop with Veterans' Info Recovered - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/29/06

Laptop with Veterans' Info Recovered

The Chatham County Veterans Council The Chatham County Veterans Council

The FBI says it now has the laptop which was stolen from a Veterans Administration employee's house last month. The computer contained names, social security numbers and the birthdates of more than 26 million veterans.

WTOC spoke with Donald Ernst, the chairman of the Chatham County Veterans council, for whom this is very good news. The veterans council has been educating veterans about identity theft, which is something we all need to watch out for, but they're relieved to know the computer's been recovered and it looks like no one ever accessed the information.

"I'm glad they recovered it," said Ernst. "I didn't think in the first place it had been malicious, that folks or whoever had the laptop didn't know what they had, so it's good to know they have recovered it."

Still, Ernst feared what could have happened if the computer ended up in the wrong hands. "The potential for identity fraud and identity theft on a very large scale, the potential was there."

Veterans organizations across our area spoke to their members and passed out flyers about the dangers of identity theft. But Ernst says this should be a wakeup call to the VA to change the way it protects those who spent their lives protecting America.

"Veterans are pillars of the community," he said. "Veterans have sacrificed a lot to protect the things most people enjoy without ever thinking about how we got those freedoms or things that they're able to do."

Donald Ernst says he'd like to see the government take more safeguards when they store information.

The FBI is not saying where the computer was found. Last month, the VA worker who brought her computer home was placed on administrative leave after it was stolen.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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