We’ve learned that some people have already started receiving a letter about free credit monitoring service from Schuylkill County government regarding the ongoing Snoopgate controversy.
Snoopgate is a term we’ve giving to a controversy involving two Courthouse employees accused by the County government of acting in a rogue manner in their use of the online service LexisNexis.
The County says two employees conducted “unauthorized searches” on LexisNexis, outside of the regular duties, which apparently required them to use this service.
To people who may have received the letter and have no idea what or where Schuylkill County is on the map asking if this offer is legit, the short answer is yes but locals know there’s more to this story than a year of free credit monitoring service.
Schuylkill County Credit Monitoring Letters Sent to People Tied Up in Snoopgate
Schuylkill County Commissioners and several other officials have twice tried to fire these employees over this alleged infraction. Each time has failed due to one Commissioner’s potential conflict of interest in the matter and another Commissioner not being convinced they’re guilty.
Regardless, about a month ago, the Commissioners did agree to provide a year of identity theft protection from Experian. It will cost the County at least $64,000 but up to more than $275,000. And the first part of that identity theft protection service offering is a letter to people whose identity may have been compromised in what the County says happened.
The letter is addressed to people who the County says “may have had their personal information displayed” on searches conducted by these employees. It’s signed by Commissioners Chairman Boots Hetherington, who has said offering this ID theft protection was “the right thing to do.”
Hetherington’s administration says it hired a law firm that was an expert in cyber security issues and the Commissioners agreed to let that firm do an investigation into what happened. However, while Hetherington cited the investigation the last time he tried to fire these employees, he and other County officials have refused to release the investigation report to the public.
The letter opens, “Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania is writing with important information regarding a recent incident that involved your personal information.”
Hetherington then attempts to explain what happened but uses no absolute language since what he’s accusing the employees of doing hasn’t been proven in public.
He writes under the heading “What Happened” … “The County subscribes to a computerized database that County employees search to find addresses and other information to assist with property sales, service of process and location information about decedents. In August 2021. the County learned that two County employees may have exceeded the scope of their authority by using the database to conduct searches related to a personal matter. After learning about the searches, the County launched an investigation and hired legal counsel with an expertise in cybersecurity so that the County could better understand what happened and help prevent something like this from happening again.”
It goes on …
“Based on the investigation, the County believes that a limited number of database searches unrelated to County services or responsibilities were performed. Unfortunately, individuals who were not the focus of these searches may have had their personal information displayed in the search results, including individuals who, in some instances, had no connection with Schuylkill County.”
Boots then writes that the letter recipient’s name was among many that a “database vendor” gave to the Courthouse whose name came up on one of these searches.
“Although we do not believe that your information was misused, we are notifying you in an abundance of caution because your name was searched or your information was included in the results of the searches,” Hetherington adds.
The County says the following bits of personal data may have been compromised:
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Driver License number
The letter adds that the County is “committed to making this right and (is) investing in internal processes, tools, and resources to reduce the likelihood that this could happen again. Hetherington writes that the County is offering free ID theft protection service to people for a year. And it’s also “enhancing (the County’s) internal auditing and oversight of database searches to help ensure that searches are performed for County purposes only.”
Recipients also get several pages of boilerplate information on identity theft, credit monitoring, and data protection.