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Personal Information At Risk After Laptops Stolen From N.J. Health Insurance Company

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Social security numbers, birth dates and other sensitive personal information of hundreds of thousands of people is in jeopardy after two laptops were stolen from a New Jersey insurance company.

As CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez reported, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey sent out a letter to customers saying that during the first weekend of November someone swiped the computers from its Newark headquarters.

A Horizon spokesperson said the stolen laptops may have contained the personal information of nearly 840,000 of its members. The data includes clinical information, such as medication and test results.

Karen and Dean Wasylyk, of Edison, N.J., said they have felt helpless since receiving the letter.

"You can liken us to a ship without a rudder," Dean Wasylyk said.

"I'm afraid to go to the mailbox and see I have a new credit card or a new mortgage," Karen Wasylyk said. " ... It's very overwhelming."

Horizon said the password-protected laptops were unencrypted, but "nothing leads us to believe that the computers were stolen for the information they contained or that any member information has been used inappropriately."

Joel Reidenberg, a professor at Fordham University who specializes in privacy laws, said, in the wrong hands, personal information could lead not only to identity theft, but medical fraud as well.

"The thief has enough information about you that they might masquerade either as you to get medical services under your name or to get medical services under the name of a family member," Reidenberg said.

Horizon has offered to pay members for a year's worth of credit monitoring. The company also said it has strengthened its security and encryption processes to prevent similar incidents.

But for the Wasylyks, it seems nothing can ensure their peace of mind.

"Everything that you've worked for could be dissolved in a matter of seconds," Dean Wasylyk said.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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