Social Security numbers mistakenly posted on Brookhaven Town website

A screengrab of the Town of Brookhaven's website,

A screengrab of the Town of Brookhaven's website, where residents' personal information was mistakenly posted online. (June 5, 2013) (Credit: Brookhaven.org)

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Brookhaven Town inadvertently posted the Social Security numbers of 78 ambulance workers and beneficiaries on the town website last week, raising fears that workers could fall victim to fraud or identity theft.

The posting, which was on the website for five days, was made public at Tuesday night's town board meeting by Vivian Viloria-Fisher, the Democratic challenger to Republican town supervisor Edward P. Romaine.

Brookhaven officials said the posting was an accident that occurred when the legal department posted online a resolution to which the names, Social Security numbers and other personal information were attached. Officials said the attachment should have been removed before posting.

Officials promised Wednesday to pursue legal action against anyone who disseminates the information.

A similar problem occurred in 2010 when the same information was posted to the town website, again as an attachment to a resolution. Town officials say the list was quickly removed; it is not clear how long that post was online.

Shirley Ambulance Chief James Deutcsh said his fiancee is among those listed. "As you can tell, we're all upset but working with the town to fix what needs to be done," said Deutcsh, who confirmed that up to 10 of the listed names belong to his district.

Town officials said they were working to safeguard everyone's identity.

"Obviously, we consider this a very serious matter," Romaine said after the board meeting. "We're going to look fully at what the cause was and who is responsible."

The town errantly posted the personal information on May 30. It was attached to a resolution that was unanimously approved Tuesday, providing a length-of-service stipend to volunteer ambulance workers for each year served after retiring. As part of the process, the names of volunteers and their beneficiaries were listed. One chief said hundreds of names and addresses were listed, beyond the 78 persons whose Social Security numbers were included.

Brookhaven's law department was notified about the posting at 2:35 p.m. Tuesday, and the information technology department removed the personal information at 3 p.m., officials said.

"This cavalier act of carelessness has compromised dozens of people who are performing a great public service for their communities," Viloria-Fisher said at the meeting.

Town officials say that before the posting was removed, some people disseminated the information -- a violation of New York State general business law.

Town officials said Wednesday that the law department can track each person who looked at the online resolution and plans to forward the names of anyone who disseminated the information to authorities for prosecution. Brookhaven officials said if the issue is deemed a civil matter, the town will take civil action.

As part of the investigation, town officials sent letters to the 78 persons who were exposed and notified the chiefs of all seven ambulance company districts.

The town also hired a firm to both monitor the credit of those whose personal information was distributed and give regular updates to everyone involved in order to guard against fraud and identity theft.

Viloria-Fisher demanded to know who is responsible for reviewing the online agenda. But Brookhaven Republican Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico accused her of playing "a political gotcha game."

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