It Just Seemed Too Good: How An Employee Gained Unauthorized Access to HIPPA Records and Lost Her JobDo the best you can, be kind and courtesy, have good work product and treat clients, patients and co-workers with respect, work well with others and be on top of your game.  All these applied to our Client, Amanda’s Office Manager Sharon, she was a team player from the outside and yet, things just seemed too good.   That saying:  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!  So Amanda disregarded signs of change.  She didn’t notice Sharon was beginning to be a few minutes late getting to work, the phone rang a couple more times than necessary, the once chipper and eager girl she hired was more lax and a bit distant, but her work was good, so “don’t fix it” applied until one day she couldn’t ignore that something was definitely broken in her office.

Amanda overheard one of her employees talking about how Sharon made some comments about not being happy, but quitting wasn’t an option.  When approached, the employee explained that Sharon just wasn’t “with it”.  She became a bit rude to others, not so much so that it was offensive, just short at time.  She further explained that the Assistant would review files outside of her position.  What she did with them was unknown, but her access to them was making her co-workers wonder what was going on.  Had Amanda given her authorization to do so?  If yes, then they would be overstepping their boundaries, if not, someone needed to bring it to Amanda’s attention.

Being a Counselor Amanda had multiple patients every day and when they leave, they leave behind a trail of paperwork, notes, ideas, medical evaluations that must remain in the strictest of confidence and to jeopardize that could also jeopardize her career.  It was time for action.  It was time to get professionals involved who could assist in this matter.  She needed to learn if Sharon was being deceptive, if what she was doing was illegal or detrimental to her practice.

First, we conducted a thorough employment background check upon Sharon, to include any AKA’s she may be linked to.  Due Diligence and background investigations can provide a clear picture of criminal and civil records, driving history, places worked and lived, even known associates.  Was Sharon stealing from the company?  Was she taking confidential files outside of the office, was she copying or scanning documents?  If that was a possibility, we highly suggested a computer forensics investigation which we often conduct digital forensics for forensic data recovery.  This would be able to determine if she had copied confidential files, if she emailed them to someone or herself, if she scanned any documents that she should not have had personal access to.

Amanda explained that due to HIPPA, all her files were secure and all filing cabinets were kept locked at all times, but the Office Manager, Sharon, could gain access with permission from Amanda.  We scheduled the forensic extraction on a day Sharon had requested off for personal reasons.  Our forensic computer specialist extracted data by utilizing data extraction software.  The end results produced information that not only was there protected files scanned; they were also emailed to an unknown email address from Amanda’s IP address.  It also produced saved emails in a hidden folder on Sharon’s computer from Amanda’s ex-husband.

It was at this time Amanda wanted to confront Sharon.  Of course Sharon denied any wrong doing, but was released from her position immediately. We conducted an asset investigation and learned Sharon had an unknown account where multiple deposits were made from Amanda’s ex-husband.  This information was turned over to Amanda’s attorney.

- Tim Wilcox, President

- Brenda McGinley, Director of Operations