A laptop computer with payroll information for more than 500 workers at 50 small Seattle-area companies has been stolen from a state Employment...

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A laptop computer with payroll information for more than 500 workers at 50 small Seattle-area companies has been stolen from a state Employment Security Department auditor.


None of the information — including names, Social Security numbers and salaries — has been used for criminal purposes, as far as the department knows.


“Thieves finding these items often want to sell them quickly,” spokeswoman Sheryl Hutchison said. “They wipe out the hard drives and resell them, so there’s a good chance the data is gone.”


To be safe, the department is calling and sending letters to companies whose employees’ information was on the laptop.


The department does not have the workers’ addresses or phone numbers.


The laptop was stolen Nov. 23 from an auditor’s trunk when someone broke into her car. The department is not releasing her name.


The auditor is not at fault in the theft, the department said.


Two weeks earlier, a Boeing worker’s computer with data for 161,000 current and former employees was stolen.


The Employment Security Department spokeswoman said its auditors carry laptops with workers’ names, Social Security numbers and pay information to assist in audits of companies’ unemployment-insurance practices.


The department issued a news release Tuesday estimating the number of affected employees at 826 and the number of companies at 65.


That estimate declined as the department learned more about information on the laptop.


For a list of affected companies, go to http://fortress.wa.gov/esd/portal/dataprivacy and click on “security alert.” People who do not have access to the Internet should call 206-706-3808.


The audit periods ranged from November 2004 through October 2005.


If you worked for one of the companies during the month it was audited — the month of each affected firm’s audit is available on the Web site — it is important to monitor your bank and credit-card accounts for unusual activity, examine credit reports for errors and fraud and consider placing a fraud alert or freeze on your credit reports.


Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com