HHS commissioner apologizes for wait on data breach calls

  • Jeffrey Meyers, nominated to be the next commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, testifies before the Executive Council, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Concord, N.H. Meyers has been serving as acting commissioner since early January and is seeking a full four-year appointment. AP file

Monitor staff
Published: 1/4/2017 12:13:34 AM

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is apologizing for long wait times at its call center for victims of a recent department data breach.

HHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers released a statement on Tuesday saying department officials are “very concerned” about reports of long wait times for possible data breach victims attempting to reach call center representatives.

“Our main priority is to be responsive to those who have been potentially impacted,” Meyers said.

HHS spokesman Jake Leon said the client services center has fielded an average of 20 calls per day related to the data breach since it was first reported on Dec. 27.

In addition to the 20 calls per day, Leon said a total of 23 voice mails were left between Dec. 27 and Tuesday, and all calls were returned within a day.

Leon said he was only aware of one complaint of long wait times.

“We continue to monitor call volume to ensure that the toll free phone number is sufficiently staffed so that residents are able to connect with a client services representative in a timely manner to learn more about steps they can take if they are concerned they may have been compromised (and) should take steps to protect from incidents of identity theft or fraud,” Meyers added in his statement.

The data breach occurred in October 2015 when a New Hampshire Hospital resident accessed confidential information of 15,000 HHS clients, using a computer at the hospital library.

HHS officials were not notified of the breach until a year later, when it became known that screenshots of information had been posted to a social media website.

The information, which included names, addresses and Social Security numbers, was removed, and a criminal investigation launched. In a statement last week, Meyers said there’s no evidence the confidential information was misused or that credit card or banking information was accessed.

Meyers said New Hampshire residents concerned that they could be affected by the data breach can call (888) 901-4999 and press 3 to speak to an HHS representative.

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)

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