PLAINVIEW - Thousands of patients may be at risk of having their identity stolen after a potential data breach at North Shore LIJ.

A spokesperson for North Shore LIJ says five laptops were stolen last September from a third-party company that processes payments from insurers to hospitals. The company notified LIJ of the breach last month.

Four of the computers contained the personal information of about 18,000 North Shore LIJ patients. The information includes patients' names, birth dates, medical and insurance details and Social Security numbers. The stolen laptops have not been recovered.

Officials say the laptops were password protected, but none of the personal data was encrypted.

Letters went out Friday to the 8,000 Long Island residents whose accounts may have been compromised.

Identity theft protection services will be provided to affected patients. For more information call 1-855-367-0138.