Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Juvenile crime victims' electronic records mislaid
Flash drive had kids' names, account infoBy Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • February 3, 2009 A Metro auditor misplaced a portable computer storage drive containing the names of more than 500 juvenile crime victims who receive government funds, potentially exposing their bank account numbers and balances. The victims' addresses, phone numbers and Social Security numbers were not on the device, and banks have been alerted to look out for suspicious activity on the accounts. But most of the victims are still minors, and their names alone are sensitive information that isn't meant for public consumption, Davidson County Juvenile Court Clerk Vic Lineweaver said Monday. "I don't see how they could have lost it," said Lineweaver, who was held in contempt of court in 2007 for failing to produce two files for a Juvenile Court referee. "But we're all human." Metro internal auditor Mark Swann said the computer flash drive was last seen Dec. 19 — almost exactly a year after thieves stole two laptops containing Metro voters' Social Security numbers. But the auditor who misplaced it didn't tell his bosses until mid-January. Swann said the auditor has not been disciplined for either the lost drive or the delayed report, however, because the office didn't have a policy on flash drives at the time. It has one now: Using flash drives is prohibited. "I wish it didn't happen," Swann said. "We realize the severity of the incident." Swann said his office was conducting a routine audit of victim compensation accounts in December. Parents or guardians of minors who are victims of crimes can use the accounts to pay for counseling, education needs and other court-approved expenses. The money comes from a federal grant that the state passes on to Metro. Swann said the auditor used the flash drive to transfer information from one computer to another in a different part of the Juvenile Court complex. After the transfer was completed, the drive "got lost in transit." The device contains 559 names but just 419 active accounts, because some victims' accounts have been closed since they became adults. Swann said 367 of the accounts contained less than $10,000 each. Lineweaver said the average account has $1,500 to $3,000. Lineweaver and Swann said they're waiting on advice from Metro attorneys before notifying the victims and their parents or guardians. Lineweaver's office asked banks late last week to watch for anyone trying to close an account, which would be unusual.