More than 200 families or individuals have signed up for free credit monitoring and hundreds more are expected to add their names to the list as letters arrive in their mailboxes warning that they might be victims of a security breach at the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The letters went out as late as Wednesday, and state officials expect the highest volume of calls to the hotline will be over the weekend or early next week, said HHS spokesman Jeff Stensland.
The toll-free line — (888) 829-6561 — will be operating 11 a.m.-8 p.m. today and Sunday before reverting to its 9 a.m.-9 p.m. weekday hours.
Through Thursday, the line had received 1,062 calls, Stensland said. Not everyone who called had been impacted by the breach. Among those who had, 86 signed up for individual credit monitoring and 127 signed up for the family option offered when a minor’s information was affected.
The hotline was set up after HHS learned personal information for more than 228,000 Medicaid beneficiaries had been gathered by an agency employee, sent to his personal, unsecured email account and passed along to at least one other person. The information was gathered between Jan. 31 and April 2.
The breach was discovered during an employee performance review April 10. Christopher Lykes Jr., 36, of Swansea was fired immediately and was arrested April 19 on five counts of violating medical confidentiality laws and one count of disclosure of confidential information. Lykes was released on $100,000 bond the day after his arrest and awaits a first court appearance scheduled for May 21.
The information included Social Security numbers for 22,604 individuals, prompting fears their health or financial information could be compromised. The state will spend about $1 million to set up the hotline and provide free credit checks and daily credit monitoring for any of the Medicaid beneficiaries potentially impacted. Nearly 90 percent of the individuals are in six counties — Richland, Lexington, Orangeburg, Bamberg, Barnwell and Allendale.
In addition to the letters, HHS is publicizing the hotline in newspaper and radio advertisements.