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Wyoming health department warns of fraud calls regarding data breach
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Wyoming health department warns of fraud calls regarding data breach

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COVID-19 Testing

Covid-19 Surge Team members Skylar Trembath, Evan Scott and Alli MacDonald sort coronavirus specimen collection kits brought in by a courier Friday, Sept. 4, at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory in Cheyenne.

Wyoming residents are receiving fraudulent calls about a data breach the state health department reported earlier this week, the department said Friday.

The data breach at the Wyoming Department of Health publicly exposed COVID-19, influenza and blood alcohol test data from more than a quarter of Wyomingites and some out-of-state residents, the department announced Tuesday.

“The callers falsely claim to represent us, say they are calling about the breach and then ask the individuals they’ve reached for insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or other financial information. In some instances, it seems they have been able to make it appear as if the calls are coming from state government phone numbers,” Jeri Hendricks, an administrator for the state Office of Privacy, Security and Contracts, said in a release.

“No one representing the department will ask you for insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or personal financial information. No one representing the department will call you about the breach unless they are returning a call you made to us first,” Hendricks said.

The breach occurred when an employee erroneously uploaded files containing that data to the public code-hosting platform GitHub.

Data for more than 164,000 individuals was uploaded to the site, according to the health department. More than 145,000 people affected are believed to be Wyoming residents who received a COVID-19 or influenza test between January 2020 and March 2021. Blood alcohol test data involved just over 18,000 people, most of whom are Wyoming residents, according to the health department.

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The state has about 577,000 residents, according to census data released Monday.

The health department had used GitHub to store and maintain computer code, but “a significant and very unfortunate error was made when the test result data was also uploaded to GitHub.com,” department director Michael Ceballos said in a statement.

The breach exposed the name or patient ID, address, date of birth, test result and date of service of certain residents who had received a COVID-19, influenza or blood alcohol test. It did not expose social security, banking or health insurance information, according to the health department.

The range of people who might be affected is broad. Anyone who received a COVID-19 or influenza test between January 2020 and March 9, 2021, may have had their information included in the breach.

Anyone who received a breath alcohol test performed by law enforcement in Wyoming between April 19, 2012, and Jan. 27, 2021, may also be affected.

The health department began sending notices to residents Monday but explained contact information is incomplete for every affected resident. The department has opened a hotline for residents to confirm whether their data may have been involved.

The department is asking residents who fall into one of the above categories but who do not receive a notice within the next two weeks to call 1-833-847-5916 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Aug. 6 to determine if their information was affected.

Residents affected will receive a free year of identity theft protection.

Follow health and education reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @m0rgan_hughes

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Health and education reporter

Morgan Hughes covers health and education in Wyoming. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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