updated 4/8/2005 5:03:56 PM ET 2005-04-08T21:03:56

A medical practice has bad news for 185,000 patients — their personal information might have been compromised.

San Jose Medical Group began sending letters to current and former patients in California earlier this week after thieves stole two office computers on March 28. The computers contained names, addresses, Social Security numbers and billing codes that could be used to deduce medical histories.

It was unclear whether any patients have become victims of identity theft, police said. The department’s fraud unit was investigating.

San Jose Medical Group did not immediately return telephone calls or an e-mail Friday from The Associated Press. Its letter recommended that patients alert a credit bureau and monitor their credit reports for a year.

Last year, more than 9.9 million Americans became identity theft victims, costing the country roughly $5 billion, according to the Postal Inspection Service.

California is the only state that requires companies to notify residents when personal data is compromised. Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation in February to require similar disclosures nationwide.

In one of the state’s largest security breeches, the University of California, Berkeley campus warned 1.4 million Californians that a problem in October had exposed the names, addresses, Social Security numbers and birthdays of people who had participated in a state in-home care program.

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