Employment Tax Agency Put Millions of California’s Social Security Numbers at Risk, Audit Finds

The Employment Development Department sent its disability and unemployment insurance claimants more than 17 million pieces of mail containing full Social Security numbers in the 2017-18 fiscal year, the state auditor reported March 28.

“Despite concerns about privacy protection from EDD’s claimants and members of the Legislature, EDD still sends every Disability and Unemployment claimant documents containing full SSNs,” the auditor stated. “Since 2015 EDD has undertaken efforts that have reduced the number of mailings that contain full SSNs that it sends to claimants, but those efforts have been insufficient. It exposed nearly 300 claimants to the risk of identity theft when it inappropriately disclosed their personal information – including SSNs – to others.”

EDD responded that it intends to replace Social Security numbers with a unique identifier as part of its benefit systems modernization project, but the auditor noted that the project “will take at least five and a half years to complete.”

“Given the timeline for its benefit systems modernization project and the fact that it does not offer claimants an alternative to receiving mailed documents containing SSNs, EDD needs to take interim measures to better protect its claimants,” the auditor concluded.

State law bars organizations from publicly displaying Social Security numbers, and specifically prohibits businesses and government agencies from printing the numbers on documents mailed to customers, unless the law requires it or the document is a form or application.

California Tax Foundation   |   1215 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814   |   916.441.0490   |   foundation@caltax.org