Audit: Government putting Americans at risk of identity theft

by: Justin Gray, Cox Media Group Washington News Bureau Updated:

Your Social Security number is the one of the most vital pieces of information a criminal can use to steal your identity. A new report finds one of the groups that may be putting your personal data at risk is the very government agency in charge of that information.

Sixty-six percent of the mail the Social Security Administration sends out contains a Social Security number, according to its inspector general’s office.  That’s more than 230 million pieces of mail.

Kimberly Byrd is the SSA deputy inspector general.  Her office said this shouldn't be happening. "It just doesn’t need to be used anymore. There are other alternatives," Byrd said.

The SSA said it will work to remove Social Security numbers where it can, but said cutting back on those mailings would take time and cost millions of dollars. The IG's office said some mail needs to include Social Security numbers, but private businesses and other government agencies have already found effective work arounds.

"They have told us they will do this, but they haven't given us a date by which it will happen," Byrd said. "We just don't think that's appropriate that convenience should trump security."

The SSA estimates making the changes would cost more than $19 million dollars.

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