Tricare officials say beneficiaries in Europe needn’t worry about the safety of their records following the stateside theft of 550,000 people’s enrollment and claim files.

The company wants to reassure beneficiaries in Europe that their records are safe, and if they have questions about that theft, they can contact the company, said Troy Kitch, Tricare Europe spokesman.

The Dec. 14 break-in affects beneficiaries across the 16-state Central Region of the military’s managed-care network, officials announced Monday.

Stolen were every computer hard drive containing names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, claims data and other information on every servicemember, family member and retiree enrolled in Tricare through TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp.

TriWest contracts with the military health system to provide health services to servicemembers, their families and retirees in the Central Region, which comprises Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and western Texas.

The break-in occurred at an industrial park office in Phoenix.

In Europe, Tricare beneficiaries’ files are stored in secure servers at about 10 locations on military installations, Kitch said.

More than one agency checks the security of the systems to ensure that information remains secure, he said.

Kitch said he didn’t think Tricare Europe received any calls from concerned beneficiaries, although people in Europe who had lived in the Central Region may be affected.

Concerned beneficiaries have inundated TriWest with phone calls, said Jim Kassebaum, spokesman for TriWest.

He said TriWest is sending information to all affected beneficiaries within the next week to explain the situation.

The stolen files date to October 1999.

“At this point, we don’t know why they were stealing the equipment,” Kassebaum said.

The FBI, Defense Criminal Investigative Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident and assessing its impact.

Department of Defense officials have ordered all contractors working with the Tricare system to assess their physical and electronic security.

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