(KPIX 5) — One of the nation’s better accompaniment agencies says it is assuredly removing Amusing Aegis numbers from a document mailed every two weeks to millions of Californians—years afterwards it told KPIX 5 and assembly it had already removed the numbers.
However, a backer for the accompaniment Employment Development Department (EDD) says the bureau will abide to book SSNs on added mailed abstracts and the EDD admits it doesn’t apperceive how abounding bodies accept been compromised by the mailings so far.
Meanwhile, a eyewitness afresh contacted KPIX to say she believes a missing EDD certificate compromised her identity.
Following KPIX 5’s advertisement in 2015, and consecutive demands by lawmakers, the EDD agreed to stop press abounding Amusing Aegis numbers on clearly-marked, biweekly-mailed documents. EDD additionally said that online enrollees could opt out of cardboard mailings with their SSNs three years ago.
Contrary to assurances from the agency, anchorman Julie Watts afresh activate her own Amusing Aegis cardinal printed on EDD abstracts mailed to her while on maternology leave. She was enrolled in EDD’s online services.
In response, the EDD now admits that online enrollees cannot opt out of mailings that book their Amusing Aegis cardinal and the bureau agreed to add a abnegation to the website.
In a contempo interview, Deputy Administrator of Communications Loree Levey said, while the bureau has assuredly removed the SSNs from the annual statements beatific to anyone accession disability, maternology or paid ancestors leave benefits, there are no actual affairs to stop press Amusing Aegis numbers on added than 200 added mailed forms beatific to millions of people.
She additionally said that the bureau does not apperceive how about it mails acute advice to the amiss abode and won’t acknowledge how abounding bodies accept contacted the bureau to accuse about mail theft, misdirected mail or added apropos involving SSNs printed on mailed EDD documents.
Consumer advocates are calling on Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Gov. Jerry Brown to booty activity and force the bureau to anon stop putting millions of Californians at accident of character theft.
KPIX aggregate our allegation with Gov. Brown’s office, which oversees the EDD, and with Attorney General Becerra, who has the ability to booty accustomed action. Both beneath to comment, apropos us aback to the EDD.
VICTIMS & ADVOCATES CALL FOR CHANGE
Seasonal tax preparer Mary Shaw knows what can arise back acute advice gets into the amiss hands.
“I advice with apology back it comes to character theft. It takes a connected time to align that affectionate of affair out,” Shaw explained.
She said she goes to abundant lengths to assure her mail and her identity. She files her taxes online to accumulate her Amusing Aegis cardinal out of the mail and she alike enrolled in Informed Delivery from the USPS. The annual scans and e-mails users images of anniversary letter afore it leaves the column office.
That is how she abstruse that, admitting her best efforts, the Employment Development Department may accept compromised her anyway.
Like millions of Californians who aggregate unemployment, disability, maternology or paid ancestors leave, the EDD sends Shaw clearly-marked belletrist with her abounding Amusing Aegis cardinal printed inside.
And, acknowledgment to the USPS Informed Delivery e-mail, she knows one contempo letter from the EDD larboard the column appointment but never arrived. Every added letter was delivered.
“This accurate one was the alone one with acute advice and it was the one that disappeared,” she told KPIX. “Someone knew that my certificate ability accord them a Amusing Aegis cardinal to sell.”
The EDD has connected committed its press of Amusing Aegis numbers, in allotment arguing the bureau “is not acquainted of any cases area our forms were acclimated to accomplish character theft.”
Shaw credibility out, aloof because the bureau isn’t acquainted of any cases, doesn’t beggarly there aren’t cases—or that there isn’t any harm.
“I feel like I’ve been afflicted over it. It’s acquired me a lot of grief,” Shaw said.
She had to affirmation up for acclaim ecology and is affairs her acclaim letters at approved intervals to analysis for fraud. But, she notes, ID thieves about delay years to use baseborn information, acquisitive victims let their bouncer down.
“They could use it in a year (or) a brace years and I don’t appetite to accept to anguish about that,” she said, “but I am annoying about it.”
Even added arresting for Mary, she’s enrolled in EDD’s online allowances but the bureau won’t let her opt out of alike cardboard mailings that accommodate her abounding Amusing Aegis number.
“They should acquiesce bodies accepting allowances to opt out of accepting mail back they debris to attach to California’s law.”
CONSUMERS CAN’T SUE – BUT ATTORNEY GENERAL XAVIER BECERRA CAN
Envelopes from government agencies like the EDD are a accepted ambition for ID thieves and accompaniment law prohibits press someone’s Amusing Aegis cardinal on mailed documents.
Privacy advocates like Consumer Watchdog’s Jamie Court point out that aloof one EDD envelope contains abundant advice to abduct someone’s identity.
“The accompaniment is acceptable and abetting character annexation by foolishly behindhand their assignment to booty those Amusing Aegis numbers out of those envelopes in the mail,” Court said.
Court addendum that clandestine companies and insurers accept been sued for far beneath than what the EDD is accomplishing but he says members of the public don’t accept the accustomed ascendancy to sue the accompaniment in this case.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is currently active for re-election, is one of the few with the accustomed ascendancy to accomplish accompaniment law and booty accustomed activity adjoin the accompaniment agency.
“The AG can sue; the governor should arise bottomward on administrator Henning like a ton of bricks,” Court said.
He acicular to Gov. Brown, who appointed EDD Administrator Patrick Henning, and assembly in Sacramento as others who accept the ability to appeal change.
EDD FAILED TO KEEP PROMISES TO LAWMAKERS
Following our letters in 2015, assembly from the Assembly aloofness board did appeal the EDD stop press SSNs and the EDD said it would.
In its accounting acknowledgment to assembly on Oct. 1, 2015, the EDD said it would be “redirecting agents and application absolute funds” to anon aish the SSN from forms that would not “(impact) affairs efficiency, such as bi-weekly connected affirmation forms for UI benefits.” The bureau said it accepted the assignment to be completed on the actual forms by December 31, 2015.
Despite the affirmation to lawmakers, three years afterwards while on maternology leave, KPIX 5’s Julie Watts noticed the EDD was still press her abounding SSN on her bi-weekly maternology affirmation forms. The SSN should accept already been removed from those abstracts which served alone to acquaint her back the EDD deposited money into her account.
Furthermore, in 2016, the EDD again assured KPIX 5 that, “EDD barter do accept online options that do not absorb the commitment of cardboard documents.”
However, as of March 2018, Watts was enrolled in EDD online casework and absolute deposit, yet she was still accepting alike mailed statements announcement her abounding SSN in two places—even admitting she accustomed the aforementioned advice via e-mail and in her defended online portal.
Watts aggregate this advice with some of the associates of the Assembly aloofness committee, which had accepted the changes three years earlier. While anniversary bidding shock and outrage, they accustomed there was little they could do afore the aing account year (2019) to force the bureau to stop commitment SSNs.
EDD SAYS IT’S ABOVE THE LAW
CA Civil Code area 1798.85 specifically states: “(A) actuality or article may not… book an individual’s Amusing Aegis cardinal on any abstracts that are mailed to the individual.”
There is an absolution if addition accompaniment or federal law “requires the Amusing Aegis cardinal to be on the certificate to be mailed.”
First, the EDD insisted that federal law did “require” it to use abounding SSNs, citation the federal Amusing Aegis Act. However, the Amusing Aegis Administration acclaimed that the EDD is not appropriate to book the Amusing Aegis cardinal on mailed abstracts and added states do abbreviate or adapt SSNs.
In added words, there is no federal law that “requires the Amusing Aegis cardinal to be on the certificate to be mailed.”
So next, the bureau cited a altered accompaniment law, Civil Code area 1798.24, which “permits” an bureau to acknowledge “personal advice … to the alone to whom the advice pertains.”
Again, it doesn’t “require the Amusing Aegis cardinal to be on the certificate to be mailed, so the accompaniment still appears to be in abuse of section 1798.85. And, as KPIX discovered, the accompaniment appears to be actionable area 1798.24 too.
Following our antecedent reports, admirers began contacting us from beyond the accompaniment to say they had accustomed added people’s EDD documents with abounding Amusing Aegis numbers in the mail. The bureau was putting the amiss abstracts in the amiss envelopes and actually sending people’s acute advice to strangers.
The bureau said it does not apperceive how about it discloses claimed advice to the amiss people.
Finally, the EDD cited a third law that it says exempts the bureau from section 1798.85 and authorizes it to mail SSNs. The bureau acicular to the Unemployment Insurance Code, which gives EDD Administrator Patrick Henning the appropriate to “permit the use of any advice in his control to the admeasurement necessary.”
Again however, it does not “require the Amusing Aegis cardinal to be on the certificate to be mailed,” so that doesn’t arise to absolved them from section 1798.85 either.
THE LONG TERM PLAN
Instead of removing or redacting SSNs from all mailed forms, the EDD has autonomous for a abiding plan to check its aged check of computer systems that run the Unemployment, Affliction and Paid Ancestors Leave programs.
Eventually, the EDD says the addition will acquiesce it to alter the SSNs with altered identifiers.
However, alike admitting the bureau accustomed the requested $3 actor allotment for that activity aftermost year, it is not alike appointed to activate demography bids from vendors to body the new arrangement until 2020.
State assembly are not optimistic.
They point to an all-encompassing history of bootless accompaniment technology projects which, in the accomplished few years, accept “suffered colossal delays and cogent amount overruns” according to a contempo audit. In fact, the accompaniment afresh canceled three above technology projects, forfeiting about $900 actor it had already paid.
In a contempo annual with KPIX 5, former EDD Administrator Michael Burnick alleged the EDD a “large, awful routinized, Weberian bureaucracy.”
“They assignment beneath a actual austere set of protocols and rules, and if you appetite to accomplish an IT change–any IT change–you can’t aloof accomplish it. You go to agency, bureau goes to the Governor’s Office, the Governor’s Appointment works with article alleged the Department of Technology, and the Department of Technology works beneath its own very, actual circuitous accretion processes,” Burnick explained.
Insiders agenda that it could booty a decade or added to complete the EDD’s proposed technology overhaul.
In the meantime, the bureau says it artlessly can’t amount out how to adapt or burrow the millions of SNNs it currently mails—or how to let bodies opt out of mail all together.
If the EDD committed agents and funds to this issue—as it claimed it had three years ago—why hasn’t the bureau been able to arise up with acting low-tech solutions to burrow SSNs on all of its forms?
Why can’t it acquisition a way to physically stop commitment abstracts to bodies who appetite to opt out?
Why can’t the EDD use the aftermost four digits of a Amusing Aegis number, like added accompaniment and federal agencies?
EDD administrator Patrick Henning has again beneath our appeal for an annual but, afterwards three years and over 100 e-mails, the agency’s arch of communications afresh agreed to an annual in his place.
ANSWERS FROM THE EDD
Deputy Administrator of Communications Loree Levey began by announcement that, aloof afore the interview, the bureau had assuredly removed Amusing Aegis numbers from one of its highest-volume forms—biweekly drop statements mailed every two weeks to anybody accession disability, maternology or paid ancestors leave benefits.
The move came after Watts appear that her own Amusing Aegis cardinal was still actuality printed on those forms during her contempo maternology leave.
“What prevented you from removing this cardinal three years ago back I aboriginal brought it to your attention?” Watts asked.
“All of it takes time and we accept abundant forms and … we accept bound resources,” Levey explained.
Levey added, “We have, for the aftermost three years, been alive to abate as abounding forms as we can. I ambition we had an accessible on in the sky — I actually do — for all of our systems. Unfortunately, all of it, with COBOL programming, takes a lot of testing, development, et cetera.”
HOW MANY SSNS ARE STILL BEING MAILED?
Levey said that, of the 3,000 altered forms which the EDD mails, the bureau has articular about 450 that accommodate an SSN.
According to a account provided to KPIX, the bureau says it has removed, replaced or truncated the numbers on 148 forms so far and the EDD affairs to abate addition 13 forms this summer. However, this alone addresses about 35 percent of forms with SSNs.
“Now, affective forward, we do accept some forms that we’re still gonna accept to accept an SSN on it for assorted reasons,” Levey explained.
“And one of them is, we accept some actual old — aural the check of systems, abundant of it based on COBOL programming — that accept no added way of anecdotic a appellant except beneath a Amusing Aegis number.”
When asked, “How abounding bodies are still accepting their Amusing Aegis numbers in the mail?” Levey said she didn’t apperceive because the bureau doesn’t “track people.”
She could alone say they accelerate out about three actor claims a year. Ultimately, she admitted, the bureau artlessly doesn’t apperceive how abounding Amusing Aegis numbers it continues to mail out.
WHY CAN’T ONLINE CUSTOMERS OPT OUT OF MAIL?
In an e-mail to KPIX 5 anachronous May 18, 2016, Levey said “EDD barter accept online options that do not absorb commitment of documents.” In a abstracted e-mail she common to Watts, “We do action our barter online options that do not crave paperwork through the mail.”
However, two years later, Watts was enrolled in the EDD’s online casework but was still accepting alike mailed statements that included her abounding SSN.
Levey never anon addressed why the bureau had provided the apocryphal advice to both KPIX and lawmakers. Instead, she responded to again questions with able statements acquainted that the bureau had fabricated “significant progress” and had looked at the forms in a “painstaking way.”
Eventually, she accustomed that—despite the antecedent claims—online enrollees cannot, in fact, opt out of mailings. Levey said the bureau is now abacus a abnegation on its website at the advancement of Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, afterward an annual with KPIX beforehand this year.
“We actually took the advocacy of Assemblywoman Irwin and put the abnegation up on our website that says ‘even admitting you called to accept cyberbanking communications, you still may accept account to get a notices from us through the mail in some instances.’”
“Why can’t I opt out of mail altogether?” Watts asked.
“We don’t accept that abounding adequacy appropriate now. If we aish SSNs, it would anticipate us from actuality able to pay allowances timely,” Levey said, adding, “That’s the way our systems were built. That (automatically) triggers that notice. (That’s) the best we can do appropriate now.”
She couldn’t explain why the bureau can’t arise up with low-tech solutions to physically anticipate exceptionable mail from actuality beatific to the column office—like dedicating agents to plucking called automated notices out of a accumulation of mail.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER LOW-TECH SOLUTIONS?
Levey admits that some forms like paid ancestors leave are candy manually, which provides the befalling for some low-tech solutions. Watts questioned why, instead of accounting in the abounding SSN, they couldn’t manually abbreviate the cardinal by alone accounting in the aftermost 4 digits.
“Why can’t the actuality aloof blazon in XXX-XX-1234? Why charge they blazon in the absolute social?” Watts asked.
Levey argued the bureau could not accomplish application aloof the aftermost four digits. “In our arrangement we accept 55 Smiths with the aforementioned aftermost four digits of a Amusing Aegis number,” she claimed.
“But do they all alive at the aforementioned address?” Watts asked.
“We would accept to agilely go through every one of those. It would booty us hours, it would actually elongate the time,” she said.
While an SSN ability be all-important for identification purposes on an admission document, Levey didn’t explain actually why the bureau needs to book the abounding SSN on an approachable mail, abnormally to claimants already enrolled online.
However, back asked, she did say that application cardboard banal with pre-printed atramentous boxes to burrow the cardinal would be too bulky for the bureau because they are still press the numbers on so abounding altered types of forms.
Shortly afore the interview, Levey said in an e-mail, “The EDD is not acquainted of any cases area our forms accept been acclimated to accomplish character theft.”
It’s a affect the EDD has echoed for years and one that assembly accept common to KPIX in aegis of the agency.
During the interview, Watts asked Levey to analyze how the bureau ability become acquainted of character theft.
“I don’t know,” Levey admitted. “But I can acquaint you, we’re not acquainted of that.”
“Because ID thieves don’t about alarm the EDD to say ‘Hey I blanket this person’s identity,’” Watts acicular out.
But admirers accept been accusatory to KPIX about compromised EDD abstracts for years.
Maxine Hines was the aboriginal to accompany the aegis accident to KPIX 5’s attention.
When Hines complained to the EDD, she said the acknowledgment she got from an employee surprised her. “She affectionate of laughed a bit, and said ‘a lot of bodies accept complained.’”
Shortly afterwards seeing Hines’ adventure on KPIX, Jody Howard noticed the EDD had afield beatific her addition else’s EDD documents forth with her own.
“How in the apple did this allotment of cardboard get into an envelope addressed to me?” she wondered. She said she could not get authority of anyone at the EDD to let them apperceive about the mistake.
Alicia Brown, from Glendale, tweeted “I already accustomed addition else’s EDD letter absorbed 2 abundance w/ their ss#! I complained as able-bodied but annihilation was done.”
We accept accustomed abounding agnate complaints from bodies who say they contacted the EDD to address issues alignment from misdirected mail to mail theft.
“How about does that happen?” Watts asked Levey.
“I can acquaint you it’s actual rare,” Levey responded, adding, “We don’t apprehend that abounding cases and, back we do, we go advanced and chase the assigned action by forwarding it up to the Advice Aegis Office.”
KPIX 5 has again requested redacted advice apropos the cardinal of complaints and types of complaints that the EDD receives accompanying to Amusing Aegis numbers or misdirected mail.
While we accept never requested advice that ability analyze a complainant, the EDD has again denied our requests advertence either that the advice is arcane or that they don’t clue the complaint advice we are seeking.
“So, you won’t acquaint us how about you blend up and accommodation people’s identity?” Watts asked.
“I can’t,” Levey admitted, “I don’t accept that information.”
Following our antecedent letters in 2015, centralized bureau e-mails appear that advisers asked for accepted accent to acknowledge to SSN-related complaints.
Still, the bureau contends it does not clue complaints and it has no abstraction how abounding bodies accept been compromised. The agency’s position remains: there is no affirmation anyone has been harmed.
Mary Shaw feels she has actually been harmed; “My advice is out there and I don’t apperceive who has it.”
She is now affected to booty the time-consuming accomplish of proactively attention her identity, “And that’s a lot of assignment and it’s ongoing.”
Also ongoing: the agency’s efforts to stop putting bodies at accident of ID theft. Meanwhile, Shaw says the EDD is still press her SSN on the abstracts it sends to her.
KPIX Continuing Coverage: “California UN-Confidential”
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