Almost 800 paper files containing sensitive information about cases investigated by the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services were stolen from an employee’s vehicle, putting the parties’ personal data at risk of misuse, officials said Thursday.

“We don’t know who stole the records or for what reason,” said DPSS Director Sarah Mack. “However, we do know this breach represents a concern to each individual whose records were taken, and we are determined to help minimize the privacy risks that may arise from this unfortunate incident.”

Mack said that the 770 individuals whose names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and addresses were contained in the files will be receiving letters by Saturday notifying them of the breach.

“We apologize to each affected person,” she said.

The county will be offering all of the individuals a year of free credit monitoring, explained further in the letters.

Recipients are being encouraged to take advantage of the county-paid service to protect against fraudulent use of their compromised information, according to officials.

It was unclear why the stacks of files had been left inside the DPSS employee’s vehicle.

According to the agency, the files pertained to closed cases originating from the sheriff’s Palm Desert station, and on July 27, the employee — whose name was not released — was taking them from the Coachella Valley to the DPSS main office in Riverside.

Officials did not say if the employee left the files in his or her vehicle overnight when the break-in occurred in Riverside.

An internal investigation is ongoing, and DPSS supervisors are in the process of re-familiarizing workers with protocols to protect records, according to Mack.

“Protecting sensitive client information is a priority for this organization, and we want to ensure that best practices are maintained by all employees at all times,” she said.

DPSS serves as the umbrella organization overseeing the Department of Child Protective Services, Adult Protective Services and other units.

Anyone with questions or concerns was asked to contact DPSS at 951-358-3010, or visiting www.dpss.co.riverside.ca.us.

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