California Realizes Maybe It’s Not Such A Good Idea To Print Full Social Security Numbers On Mailed Documents

Earlier this year, a California state agency was heavily criticized for tempting identity thieves by printing full Social Security numbers on millions of documents it mailed out to state residents. Making matters worse, the agency didn’t really seem to understand why this might be a problem. After a few months to think about it, the bureaucrats appear to have finally come around.

With a full SSN, name, and mailing address, a clever ID thief could do a lot of damage. But when CBS San Francisco asked the California Employment Development Department in July why it was printing all this information on every document it mailed out to residents, the agency’s response was to shrug.

The EDD, which handles California’s unemployment benefits, said it is required to track documentation using residents’ SSNs but failed to explain why it couldn’t — like countless other federal and state offices — obscure some of this information when it came time to send things through the mail.

In fact, the federal Social Security Administration has stated that there is no requirement to print these numbers on mailed documents.

In response to demands from consumer advocates and lawmakers, the EDD has realized that it is indeed possible for the agency to only print the last four digits of a resident’s SSN on a document and that, starting this month it will be making that change on the forms mailed most frequently by the EDD.

The agency tells CBS San Francisco that it hopes to have made that update to 75% of its mailed documents by the end of the year and that it ultimately intends to replace the use of SSNs with unique identifiers that can’t be easily exploited by ID thieves.

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