MERCEDES — Local and federal authorities are investigating a breach of some 950 Mercedes school district employees’ personal information, Superintendent Dr. Daniel Treviño Jr. said Friday morning.
Treviño blamed an oversight for the sharing of what’s believed to be every Mercedes ISD employee’s W2 forms with an “unknown email address” on Thursday. According to the superintendent, the sensitive information within the government documents — such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth — should now be considered comprised.
“We are presently gathering data for the IRS’ requests on employee information for fiscal year 2015(-16), and in the midst of gathering information we received a fraudulent email that later we found out was fraudulent,” Treviño said before identifying the district’s payroll office as the source of the breach. “(The email was) requesting W2 forms from our employees, and so it was an oversight when the payroll office responded and submitted the file to an unknown email address. Therefore … employees’ personal information was breached.”
Letters dated Jan. 26 and signed by the superintendent informing employees of the situation have already been sent.
The letters read:
“Unfortunately, please note that sensitive personal information included in your W2’s is reasonably believed to have been compromised as a result of a fraudulent information request. Said information may have been acquired by unauthorized individuals. Mercedes ISD respects the privacy of our employees and will take every precautionary measure, to protect information. The District is conducting a full investigation to the matter at hand, and is cooperating with other investigative entities. Mercedes ISD has implemented additional security measures designed to prevent further breach of privacy information of our valued employees.”
As the letters allude, district officials are investing in software designed to safeguard employees’ sensitive information. Treviño said district officials are also cooperating with the Mercedes Police Department, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the IRS during the course of their investigation, as well as working with the district’s legal department.
In the meantime, Mercedes ISD employees are being asked to call central office at (956) 514-2022 should they have any questions on the matter.
“We have informed every employee of the district as need be by federal code, and we will continue supporting and taking further precautions to keep any information that’s confidential as well as the district safe,” Treviño said. “We’re going to commit to a software that will monitor misuse of any employee personal information.”
Staff writer Raul Garcia contributed to this report.