IRS Laptop Lost With Data on 291 People

By Christopher Lee Washington Post Staff Writer

An Internal Revenue Service employee lost an agency laptop early last month that contained sensitive personal information on 291 workers and job applicants, a spokesman said yesterday.

The IRS's Terry L. Lemons said the employee checked the laptop as luggage aboard a commercial flight while traveling to a job fair and never saw it again. The computer contained unencrypted names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and fingerprints of the employees and applicants, Lemons said. Slightly more than 100 of the people affected were IRS employees, he said. No tax return information was in the laptop, he said.

"The data was not encrypted, but it was protected by a double-password system," Lemons said. "To get in to this personal data on there, you would have to have two separate passwords."

Lemons said the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration is investigating the loss. The IRS is notifying affected individuals and advising them on steps to guard against identity theft. Lemons declined to name the airline or the employee, or to say whether the worker was disciplined, citing the ongoing investigation.

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