The California agency tasked with distributing unemployment, disability and parental leave benefits routinely puts recipients at risk for identity theft by including their full Social Security numbers and other personal information on millions of documents mailed each year, according to a state audit released Thursday.
And while the Employment Development Department agrees that it should immediately stop printing Social Security numbers on so many documents, it will be two years before the agency could do so because of its aged computer system.
State lawmakers ordered the audit last year after learning that the department had not stopped printing full Social Security numbers on many of the most commonly used forms sent in the mail, despite lawmakers and consumers raising questions about the practice in 2015. When auditors began their investigation last year, they found that the department still did not have a plan for removing Social Security numbers from many mailed documents. Instead, the agency said it planned to wait until upgrading its computer system in 2024.
Former Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-Dublin), who helped push for the audit last year, said auditors were right to point out that waiting five years was not good enough. Baker said that waiting for the agency to upgrade its computer system was particularly problematic given the state’s poor track record with technology projects, which have routinely come in late, over-budget and riddled with problems.
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