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Clinic notifies patients of information breach

RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- River Falls Medical Clinic says it has notified about 2,400 clients of a breach of unsecured personal information.

The breach occurred after clinic officials reported stolen equipment to the River Falls Police in the summer of 2012.

Police investigated and found the stolen equipment, as well as paper documents containing patient-identifying information in the suspect's home on Nov. 28.

Police also found stolen items taken from City Hall and the public library.

Suspected thief, Gordon A. Eckes II, 35, of River Falls, was employed by an outside cleaning service.

Eckes has since been charged with two felonies for stolen property, one methamphetamine felony, and two misdemeanors for marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession.

He's had a preliminary court hearing on these criminal charges. A plea hearing on his case is set for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Pierce County Courthouse in Ellsworth.

Eckes allegedly took paper documents from medical clinic bins that stored documents intended to be shredded.

These documents contained personal information, such as the patient's first and last name, date of birth, certain patient account/billing account information such as diagnosis codes, scheduling information, insurance information, account numbers and medical chart numbers.

Some documents also contained patient Social Security Numbers, home addresses and phone numbers.

All these records were returned to the clinic.

According to clinic administrator Jon Pedersen, clinic officials have concluded that the overall risk of harm to patients is low. Out of caution, affected patients were still contacted by letter.

The notification letter is from the clinic and AllClear ID, an identity protection service.

In the letter, the clinic has offered help from AllClear ID at no cost.

Pederson said the clinic has modified its policy and procedures concerning placement of shred documents. It has also verified the credentials of all of its cleaning and other personnel.

Only clinic employees and the shredding company have access to the documents to be shredded, which are placed in secured bins.

Individuals who have further questions or concerns can call 877-676-0371.