- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

HAMPTON, Va. (AP) — A software problem was to blame for the public release of thousands of taxpayers’ Social Security numbers, a police investigation has concluded, ruling out any criminal charges.

But the person who alerted officials to the breach questioned the thoroughness of the investigation.

B.J. Ostergren, a privacy specialist who lives in Hanover County, said investigators did not contact her. They announced their findings Wednesday.

“It seems like their investigators would want to know how this all unfolded,” she said.

Miss Ostergren prompted the investigation two weeks ago when she confronted police Chief Chuck Jordan and Treasurer Molly Joseph Ward with a handful of Social Security numbers pulled from a public computer.

The database included details on Hampton residents who paid car, boat or real estate taxes. The records were in a searchable format, and pages from the system could be printed for free.

Chief Jordan seized the computer in the City Courthouse July 12, and investigators have been probing the hard drive.

Not everyone’s Social Security numbers were listed. The nine-digit numbers can be used to set up bank accounts, start credit cards and secure loans.

“Someone should resign for being so careless with the keys to people’s lives,” Miss Ostergren said. “There’s no telling how many people looked at the information. It has put everyone at risk.”

Cpl. Allison Good would not say how many people accessed the database, how many taxpayers were in the system or whom investigators talked to about the breach.

“We’re not giving you any specifics of the investigation,” Cpl. Good told the Daily Press of Newport News.

Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Jack Doyle reviewed the case and determined that no criminal conduct occurred.

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