Social Security Numbers Visible On Envelopes Mailed By Wisconsin… AGAIN

Look, Wisconsin. We weren’t kidding around last time. We really did mean it when we said that it wasn’t cool to print people’s Social Security Numbers where anyone can see them. How can people who are smart enough to sell sausage shaped like beer (above) not able to figure out that the SSN is a secret?

For the third time in a little over a year and the second time this month the state of Wisconsin has issued mailings that accidentally disclosed the recipient’s SSN via the mailing label. In this case, rather than printing the SSN on the actual label, they printed it a little too close to the address window. A folding machine error then completed the screw up.

From the Journal-Sentinel:

Early this month, the state started mailing out federal 1099-G forms, which under federal law must include Social Security numbers. The form is being sent to those who received a 2006 state income tax refund after itemizing their deductions.

Out of the 300,000 pieces of mail sent, about 1,000 were returned to the state as undeliverable, and of those, eight showed the Social Security numbers through the address window on the envelope. All of those eight letters came from the same batch of 5,000; another letter returned from that batch did not show a Social Security number.

Morgan said it is impossible to know how many of the 5,000 letters had visible Social Security numbers, which can be used in identify theft.

He blamed an equipment malfunction for misfolding those letters.

Gov. Jim Doyle, who was in Mequon to announce manufacturing tax credits, said residents should be confident that the mistake won’t be repeated.

“It should be very evident that this is a very high priority,” Doyle said.

We’re going to be honest with you, Gov. Doyle… may we call you Jim? Thanks. It’s not evident at all, Jim.

State botches mail again [Journal-Sentinel] (Thanks, Erik!)

PREVIOUSLY: Wisconsin Takes Printing Your SSN On Mailing Labels Twice Seriously
The State Of Wisconsin Needs To STOP Printing Social Security Numbers On Mailing Labels


Edit Your Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    What does this picture have to do with the subject matter? Beer shaped sausage?

  2. mainfr4me says:

    Wisconsin = Beer, Sausage, and Cheese.
    If I remember right, Maxim (or perhaps Playboy) magazine didn’t even rank UW-Madison on their drinking schools because it would have destroyed everyone else (if I’m wrong, please correct me).

  3. LikeYourFace says:

    @Guinness: Other than the obvious fact that beer shaped sausage is one the greatest innovations since fire, it’s another special gift from the state of Wisconsin to the rest of us. We sleep better at night knowing that somewhere out there is sausage shaped like a beer and some Wisconsin bureaucrat is busily typing SSN’s onto mailing labels.

  4. mainfr4me says:

    Correction, it was Playboy, and they said that UW-Madison was in a class of it’s own.

  5. dgcaste says:

    @Guinness: If you’re actually curious and not being sarcastic, it’s just making fun of what Wisconsinites keep themselves busy with.

  6. SarcasticDwarf says:

    @dgcaste: Oh come on now, I live in Wisconsin and we do more than drink beer, eat cheese, and watch Packer games.

    Well, ok, maybe not.

  7. bbbici says:

    What’s so special about an SSN (SIN up here in Canada)? I don’t understand what you can do with it.

    One would think if someone was an identity thief they would just take the whole government envelope anyway, open it, and read the number off the enclosed document.

  8. QuantumRiff says:

    Why on earth is the Social Security Number considered “Secret”. Good luck getting anything, anything without it. You can’t even get phone or power service without it now-adays. It was never intended to be a secret number. It was never intended to be used as a unique identifier for your entire life. I say post them everywhere. Let the problem get so damn bad, that the credit reporting companies can no longer rely on them, and credit companies either..

  9. SarcasticDwarf says:

    @bbbici: In theory your SSN is your unique identifier that is “secret.” In practice, you need to provide your SSN for damn near everything. The real issue is that all your other personally identifying information (name, address, phone number, etc) is basically public information. Having your SSN completes the profile someone would need of you to do identity theft.

  10. 44 in a Row says:

    I remember seeing “beer and cheddar”-flavored potato chips in a Costco in Grafton over the summer. Never has a state’s essence been captured so fully in a snack food.

  11. emona says:

    That picture took me a minute to understand, but boy was it worth the effort. (Also: wish I would have read the article first, d’oh!)

  12. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Yeah, Gov. Jim Doyle? “very high priority”. You keep using those words. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  13. citking says:

    @44 in a Row: Funny, because Wisconsin doesn’t have any Costcos. Try again.

  14. DallasDMD says:

    @QuantumRiff: Sure. You start with your SSN number right here.

  15. mainfr4me says:

    @Imaginary_Friend: There is a reason there are a large number of us Wisconsin people who call him ‘Diamond’ Jim Doyle.

  16. diamondmaster1 says:

    BUT…are they taking this twice as seriously as a ‘very high priority’?

  17. LikeYourFace says:

    @Imaginary_Friend: Plus ten points for Clever. Minus fifteen for Nerd. :P

  18. Anonymous says:

    Look, Consumerist, Beer Shaped Sausage has nothing to do with this. I know it was found in Wisconsin, but its a bit of a stretch.

  19. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @mainfr4me: If we take your Diamond Jim Doyle and add our Governator, I think we’d have one heckuva summer blockbuster!


  20. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @LikeYourFace: I think I’m only half a nerd [or nerd-curious] since I didn’t pay to see it in the theater. YOU, however, who immediately got the reference: full-on nerd. ;)

  21. Meg Marco says:

    @Guinness: I disagree.

  22. mainfr4me says:
  23. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    This is further cause and proof that the SSN is no longer private. Someone please alert Transunion.

  24. Anonymous says:

    @Meg Marco: Government->Wisconsin->Social Security # Fiasco ->…beer shaped sausage.

  25. Meg Marco says:

    @mainfr4me: You speak truth.

  26. SexCpotatoes says:

    I hear they are “Taking the matter seriously…”

  27. buck09 says:


    Try Again: Wisconsin has at least one Costco:


  28. jonworld says:

    Those chesseheads! I live in Illinois, 10 minutes from the Wisconsin border and they move in here and convert everyone to Packers fans and make us come to their mega-ultra-massive indoor water parks (:
    (no offense intended)

    Next thing you know Illinois will be doing the same thing on their envelopes.