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Employment Department Reports Progress on Identity Security

The state auditor in 2019 urged the department to remove individuals’ Social Security numbers in mailed correspondence as a way to reduce the risk of identity theft. The target date for completion was this month, but the department now says it needs until April to finish the task.

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The California Employment Development Department has reported significant progress — but not completion — of its intent to remove clients’ Social Security numbers from mailed correspondence.

In 2019, State Auditor Elaine Howle highlighted the risk of identity theft resulting from inclusion of individuals’ full Social Security numbers, and her office has tracked EDD’s response in periodic reports since then. While the auditor urged that the problem be remedied by this month, EDD says it needs until April to complete the project.

In October, EDD reported to the auditor: “A Social Security Number (SSN) mitigation technology was implemented in June 2020, allowing the EDD to prioritize removing or mitigating the SSN from the eleven highest volume parent form sets that are mailed to an individual. During unprecedented volumes of Unemployment Insurance Claims during the pandemic, the EDD added an additional parent form set to the SSN removal or mitigation list due to its high volume nature. Nine of the eleven highest volume form sets have been mitigated to date.”

As of October, EDD said:
  • 20 English forms and 20 Spanish forms had been mitigated across nine parent form sets.
  • Three English forms and three remaining Spanish forms across two parent form sets were on track to be mitigated by April 2022.
  • Five English forms, five Spanish forms and one Chinese form do not contain SSN and do not require mitigation.

In this week’s update, the auditor notes, “We will continue to follow up with EDD on the status of this recommendation annually.”

With the COVID-driven spike in unemployment since March 2020, EDD has been overwhelmed with claims. As it coped with the influx, it also was targeted by scammers who bilked the agency out of billions of dollars in benefits. As a result, the risk of SSN-related identity theft became a key focus of the department’s security experts.

EDD says in the latest update that it expects to complete all mitigation by April 30.
Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.