California Tempts ID Thieves, Prints Full Social Security Numbers On Millions Of Mailed Documents

cbsssnFrom ruining your credit to giving you a criminal record, a clever ID thief can do some significant damage with a stolen Social Security number, so why is one California state agency putting this information out there in the mail for these fraudsters to swipe?

That’s the question California woman asked after she noticed that every piece of mail she received from the state’s Employment Development Department contained her full SSN.

The woman, a former IRS employee, tells CBS San Francisco that she contacted the agency to complain about this sensitive personal information being printed on every form.

She says the person she spoke to “laughed a bit, and said ‘A lot of people have complained.'”

Given that ID thieves know to be on the lookout for official-looking mail because it may contain information that can be used to steal someone’s identity, why would the EDD include the unabridged SSN on every one of its documents?

California law actually prohibits the printing of “an individual’s Social Security number on any materials that are mailed to the individual, unless state or federal law requires the Social Security number to be on the document to be mailed.”

The EDD tells CBS that the agency is required to use SSNs for administering its programs, and that the “only way the Department can ensure it has information about the correct individual when contacting the claimant by correspondence is to have the full SSN on the document.”

While we can understand the need for using SSNs for tracking and administration purposes, is there really a need for the full number to be printed on documents that could be easily swiped while in transit?

A rep from the Federal Trade Commission tells CBS San Francisco that most government agencies only use partial SSNs on their mailings, if at all.

“I’m not in a position to comment on whether they’re exempt from state law,” says the FTC rep, “but they’re not exempt from best practices.”

The EDD says that it is now reviewing its available options for an alternative unique identifier, something other than the full SSN, that could be printed on documents mailed to consumers.

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