A Warning About Your Boarding Pass!

WARNING
You should be very careful with your boarding passes for flights. The bar code on the pass can be used by identity thieves to obtain your personal and frequent flyer account information. You should retain these boarding passes until you are in a position to shred or otherwise destroy in a complete manner.

What Do You Know About Wire Fraud?

What Do You Know About Wire Fraud?

What Do You Know About Wire Fraud?What is wire fraud?

Wire fraud is an act of fraud that uses electronic communications, such as making false representations on the telephone or via email, to obtain money.

How does wire fraud work?

Wire fraud occurs when a fraudster obtains money based on false representation or promises.

For example, you may receive wire instructions which appear to be from the settlement agent or attorney, when in fact they are from a fraudster.

Recommended precautions to protect yourself from WIRE/ACH Fraud:

 Do not share your online banking logon credentials (user ID and password) with anyone.

 Do not share your account number with anyone who does not need it.

 Never access your bank account using a public computer (e.g., at the library or a hotel business office)

 Monitor your accounts regularly for unauthorized transactions.  Report any unauthorized transactions to your bank immediately.

 Be suspicious of emails from free, public email account domains as they are often a source of risk.

⇒  Watch out for phishing emails with embedded links, even when they appear to come from a trusted source.

⇒  Install a firewall on your computer to prevent unauthorized access.

⇒  Be skeptical of any change in wiring instructions.

⇒  Confirm wire and other disbursement instructions received by email via confirmed telephone at a known or independently-confirmed number, not the telephone number at the bottom of the email.

GAO Finds Identity Theft Services Limited in Fraud Prevention!

ID Theft Resolutions,Ltd
Call: 1-888-484-9118

Limited in Fraud Prevention

Following the 2015 OPM data breaches, GAO found that identity theft services offer certain benefits but are also limited in what they can prevent.

April 03, 2017 – Identity theft services offer several benefits to organizations and individuals, but there are limitations in fraud prevention and other identity protection services, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Medical identity theft and tax refund fraud are also not always specifically addressed in identity theft services, GAO explained.

With regard to the two Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breaches from 2015, GAO stated that the level of insurance coverage provided was “likely unnecessary because claims paid rarely exceed a few thousand dollars.”

OPM announced on June 4, 2015 that it had been the victim of a cyber attack. The agency then reported one month later that a significantly greater number of individuals were affected by a “separate but related” cybersecurity breach.

Approximately 21.5 million individuals were affected, with some of the compromised information including “identification details such as Social Security Numbers, residency and educational history, employment history, information about immediate family and other personal acquaintances, health, criminal and financial history.”

“Millions of individuals, through no fault of their own, had their personal information stolen and we’re committed to standing by them, supporting them, and protecting them against further victimization,” Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management Beth Cobert said in a statement.  And as someone whose own information was stolen, I completely understand the concern and frustration people are feeling.”

GAO stated in its report that OPM provided duplicative identity theft services for about 3.6 million people affected by both of its 2015 breaches.

“Contrary to key operational practices previously identified by GAO, OPM’s data-breach-response policy does not include criteria or procedures for determining when to offer identity theft services, and OPM has not always documented how it chose to offer them in response to past breaches, which could hinder informed decision making in the future,” GAO wrote.

“In the private sector, companies often offer consumers affected by a data breach complimentary identity theft services for reasons other than mitigating the risk of identity theft, such as avoiding liability or complying with state law.”

Identity theft services typically include one or more areas of assistance, such as credit monitoring, identity monitoring, and identity restoration, GAO explained. Medical identity theft, identity theft refund fraud, and certain other threats involving stolen personal information are generally not included.

“Evaluation and analysis of these services by both federal and private-sector entities is limited and tends to focus on outputs (such as contractor performance) rather than outcomes (such as reduction of harm from identity theft),” the report noted.

Out of the 26 identity theft services that GAO reviewed, the agency stated that only one “expressly addressed” medical identity theft.

“That product works with the explanation-of-benefits delivery system of the user’s health insurer to alert the user every time a claim is made against the user’s health plan benefits,” the report said. “Users can flag a claim as suspicious if, for example, they do not recognize the procedure or health care provider, and the company then will investigate the claim.”

Additionally, the service is offered as a benefit by health insurers to their members instead of offered directly to consumers.

OPM did not provide many details to GAO in what type of services it offered following the 2015 breaches.

“The current officials told us that they could not find any formal documentation related to the decision to offer identity theft services or the process leading up to this decision,” GAO wrote. “The agency was able to identify a document comparing past public- and private-sector entities’ responses to breaches that may have been considered when determining which services OPM should offer after the second data breach (of background investigation records).”

OPM has previously been investigated for its large data breaches, with reports finding that certain preventative measures could have helped to potentially prevent the incidents.

Toward the end of 2016, an OIG report found that a failure to prioritize cybersecurity and adequately secure high value data helped contribute to the data breaches taking place.

Additionally, the OPM Inspector General (IG) warned the agency as early as 2005 that the information it maintained was potentially vulnerable to hackers.

OPM had an “absence of an effective managerial structure to implement reliable IT security policies,” and also “failed to implement the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) longstanding requirement to use multi-factor authentication for employees and contractors who log on to the network.”

 

Former IRS agent in ABQ admits ID theft

ID Theft Resolutions,Ltd
Call: 1-800-484-9118

By ABQJournal News Staff

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 at 10:31am

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former IRS agent Joan D. Mobley, 54, of Socorro pled guilty this week in Albuquerque to a false statement charge and two aggravated identity theft charges in connection with faking the completion of taxpayer audits and falsely signing documents of taxpayers claiming they agreed to pay additional taxes.

Mobley faces up to five years in prison on the false statements charge and a mandatory two-year term on each aggravated identity theft charge that must be served consecutive to any sentence on the false statements charge, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Under the terms of her plea deal, Mobley is required to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $39,738.32. The release did not specify how Mobley benefited from her acts.

Mobley began working for the IRS in 1986 and was a revenue agent at the IRS office in Albuquerque at the time she committed the crimes to which she pleaded guilty.

A federal grand jury filed a 28-count indictment in 2014 charging Mobley with 14 counts of making false statements and 14 counts of aggravated identity theft.

Mobley falsely stated and represented to the IRS that certain taxpayers either had consented to extending the time for assessing employment taxes or agreed to the collection and assessment of additional taxes, according to the indictment.

Mobley acknowledged in court that, instead of completing an audit as required, she falsified records to show it completed. Mobley also acknowledged signing the name of the business’s president on the records.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney James D. Tierney and Cordale Lamb of Denver Field Division of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

IRS’ Most Wanted: 5 Tax Scams to Watch Out For This Year

ID Theft Resolutions,Ltd
1-888-484-9118

The IRS released its annual list of most wanted tax scams. Being educated on these will help keep you from getting ripped off.

Danny Vena (TMFLifeIsGood) Mar 4, 2017 at 6:07PM
Each year in early February, to coincide with the beginning of tax season, the IRS compiles a list of the most common scams that taxpayers may fall victim to. While you may encounter these at any time during the year, occurrences tend to spike during filing season.

There are many fraudsters out there who would rather take your hard-earned money than make their own. A little caution and skepticism will go a long way toward ensuring they don’t. Read on to learn the scams the IRS wants you to look out for this tax season.

Tax return 1040 and refund check.
DON’T BECOME A STATISTIC! EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THESE DIRTY DOZEN TAX SCAMS. IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

1. Phishing schemes
Phishing schemes typically involve an email you receive that appears to be from a bank, credit card provider, or other company that you do business with. Be on your guard, as it may be from a scammer. These emails often look all too real, and they ask you to go to some website and update your personal information. The scammers will then use that information — whether it’s your Social Security number, your online passwords, or your bank account information — to defraud you. Be especially wary of any email that claims to be from the IRS, as the agency typically communicates with taxpayers by mail. Never provide your personal information unless you are absolutely sure who you’re dealing with.

2. Phone scams
A variation on phishing schemes, these scams involve a phone call that you receive from someone posing as an IRS agent. They may be aggressive or threatening, demanding that you pay some fictitious tax bill by sending cash, making a wire transfer, or providing a credit card number. They will try to intimidate you, threatening you with arrest, deportation, or the loss of your driver’s license. The IRS almost always communicates with taxpayers by mail, and it will never, ever ask for payment over the phone. If you receive one of these calls, hang up!

3. Identity theft
Identity theft involves an unauthorized person using your information for their own financial gain. Around tax filing season, crooks will try to obtain your Social Security number and other information using some other scam or hack. They will then file a phony tax return in your name in order to steal your refund. The IRS has partnered with state tax agencies and those in the tax preparation industry to enact safeguards to prevent this fraud. There are signs of progress, as the number of complaints involving stolen identities on tax returns fell by 50% compared to the prior year. Guarding your Social Security number from unauthorized use is the most effective prevention. The IRS provides these recommendations to protect your personal data: “Don’t routinely carry a Social Security card, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.” .

4. Return preparer fraud
This is the tax preparer equivalent of offering to sell you a discounted Rolex in an alley. The majority of CPAs and other tax preparers are honest, hard-working folks just trying to make a living. However, there are perpetrators out there who hang out a phony shingle every tax season to prey on unsuspecting tax filers. Additionally, there those tax preparers who mean well but aren’t qualified.

There are a few ways to protect yourself. Always ask the preparer if they have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which they are required to obtain from the IRS. You can also check their credentials using the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. Be sure to ask to e-file and never sign a blank return — this is the tax return equivalent of signing a blank check. Once your signature is on the document, a dishonest preparer could divert your refund to their own account, and you’d never know. Review your return thoroughly, ask questions about anything that is unclear, and be sure to sign it when you are done.

5. Fake charities
Americans love to support worthy causes they believe in. The problem is that some aren’t so worthy. There are fake charities out there that prey on human kindness by taking in donations but never doing a bit of charitable work. They sometimes have names remarkably similar to those of real charities, and they frequently set up shop immediately after natural disasters and solicit donations from unsuspecting people who are trying to help. They may also call you or show up at your front door. You wouldn’t hand your wallet to a stranger on the street, so never make donations in person or over the phone to someone you don’t know. Don’t give your credit card number or bank information unless you initiate the call, and never give out passwords. Reputable charities can be confirmed by using the IRS Select Check search tool of tax-exempt charities.

Taxpayer takeaway
Be on the lookout, not only when filing your tax return, but throughout the year. As scammers get more and more creative, educating yourself is one way to be sure you don’t become a victim. It has been said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. You can be equally sure that scammers will be happy to relieve you of some of your hard-earned cash if you let them. Being vigilant and playing by the rules is key to preventing financial insecurity.

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Identity Thieves Targeting More Gas Stations With Skimmers

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities have issued a warning for drivers in Highlands Ranch after crooks put credit card skimmers on gas station pumps.

“Well they’re at it again,” said Robyn Otero, one of a growing number of identity theft victims in Highlands Ranch. “All my friends. It’s kind of what happens nowadays. It’s just, that’s the way it goes,” she told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.

Over the past few weeks, several residents have reported having their credit cards numbers stolen through so-called skimmers set up at gas station pumps throughout the area.

The crooks hit Otero for $200.

“It was the next day and I noticed it. It was right after the transaction that I had done, so that’s how I knew it was the gas station,” she said.

The skimmers are usually placed over the credit card swiping area. The device reads every card swiped and records personal information. In Otero’s case it was well hidden.

“I paid at the pump. I didn’t notice anything artificial or anything,” she said.

highlands ranch skimmers 6map Identity Thieves Targeting More Gas Stations With Skimmers

Recent victims have been reported at the Shell stations on Broadway and Highlands Ranch Parkway, and Wildcat Reserve Parkway and McArthur Ranch Road. The sheriff’s office says because not all pumps have been converted, even credit cards with chips are not immune.

“They’re sneaky. As technology has increased, their technology has increased as well,” said Otero.

An example of a skimmer (credit: Lafayette Police Department)
An example of a skimmer (credit: Lafayette Police Department)
She says after being targeted once, she no longer pays for gas outside.

“Credit cards and debit cards are just not as secure. Definitely pay inside. Even when it’s snow and cold and you’re feeling lazy.”

And as deputies search for the elusive criminals, Otero has some words of advice for her fellow neighbors.

“Just pay in cash. They can’t get you that way.”

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office says they have no suspect information. They do have some tips to avoid becoming a victim:

– Pay cash
– Use the credit card at the register and not at the pump
– Before using the unit at the pump, give it a quick tug or shake it. The bad guys just use double sided tape of glue to attach the bad skimmer to the pumps so that they can easily remove the skimmer when they are done.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Tom Mustin is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.

Here are some ways you can protect yourself from Medical Identity Theft

BY KELVIN COLLINS
Special to The Telegraph

Identity theft affects millions of Americans every year, causing financial ruin and damaging credit histories that can take months or years to repair.

Unfortunately, a specific type of identity theft is on the rise: medical identity theft. But, what is medical identity theft, and how does it differ from a classic case of identity theft?

Medical identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information in order to obtain medical care, buy drugs or submit fake billings to Medicare in your name, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Unlike financial identity theft — which occurs when someone illegally uses your personal financial information to empty your bank account or rack up charges on credit cards taken out in your name — medical identity theft can have other serious consequences and is more difficult to clear up.

Any type of treatment, diagnosis or surgery that occurs with a stolen identity could become a part of your medical record. This could affect your access to medical care, insurance benefits and the acquired debts could end up on your credit report.

For someone to commit medical identity theft, your Social Security number isn’t necessarily needed as your name, birthday and address could be enough. According to the private cybersecurity research firm, Ponemon Institute, an estimated 2.3 million cases of medical identity theft were identified in 2014, a 22-percent increase from 2013.

The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission offer the following advice to help prevent your medical information from falling into the wrong hands:

▪ Watch out for red flags. Signs of medical identity theft may include receiving a bill for medical services you never received, medical collection notices on your credit report you don’t recognize or a call from a debt collector about a medical debt you don’t owe. If you see a mistake, contact your health insurance provider and report it.

▪ Keep copies of your medical records. Keep copies of your medical history, receipts and/or bills from treatments or doctor visits. Also, keep a record of your prescription history including the doctor who prescribed a prescription and the pharmacy that filled it. Federal law allows you to have copies of your medical or billing records, and if your request is ever denied you have the right to appeal.

▪ Read the statements from your health insurance company. Make sure to read your medical and insurance statements regularly and completely, as these documents can show warning signs of identity theft. Read the Explanation of Benefits statement your health insurance company sends after treatment. Also, check the name of the provider, the date of service and the service provided. Check that the claims paid match the care you received. If you see a mistake, contact your insurance company and report the problem.

▪ Protect your personal information. Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often. Shred all personal and financial documents, including outdated medical documents and old prescription labels. Also, don’t share medical or insurance information by phone or email unless you initiated the contact and know who you’re dealing with.

▪ Check your credit report. BBB recommends checking your credit report with the three credit bureaus at least once a year. This will help you detect any fraud, and it’s easy and free. Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com for your copy.

Some of these steps may seem excessive now but just ask someone who has had their identity stolen, especially their medical identity, and they will agree that these steps would have been much easier than fighting to regain their good name.

For more trustworthy consumer tips, visit www.bbb.org.

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at 478-742-7999, www.bbb.org or by emailing info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org.

BUSINESS

Read more here: http://www.macon.com/news/business/article128734344.html#storylink=cpy

What Identity Thieves Do With Stolen Credit Cards

MoneyTips

The convenience of modern digital commerce comes with an unfortunate side effect: it makes identity theft more convenient as well. The 2016 Identity Fraud study from Javelin Strategy and Research found that 13.1 million consumers in the U.S. were victims of identity theft during 2015, to the tune of $15 billion. Over the last six years of available data, the identity theft totals have reached approximately $112 billion.

In the end, the fraud affects you and your creditors and card issuers directly, but your stolen card information can generate multiple transactions before you even see a dime of losses. Identity thieves can choose to sell your credit card information to others instead of using it for their own purposes.

If your credit card information is stolen as part of a large breach, it’s more likely that your identity and information will be sold at least once as part of a package deal. Along the path to fraudulent purchases your card will be valued based on such factors as whether it is proven to be active (typically with small purchases that may go unnoticed) and whether other information is included — such as passwords, Social Security numbers, and birthdates that make it easier to open new lines of credit in your name.

Once your card information ends up in the hands of the final “user,” the fraudulent action can take many forms. The thief may make a duplicate card, choose to open up fraudulent accounts in your name, or simply use your existing card to buy items that can be resold for cash. Common purchases include expensive items such as jewelry or high-end electronics that are lucrative to resell, gift cards that may be easily cashed in with retailers, online shopping sprees — even items that would be considered “costs of doing business” such as website and server expenses.

You probably do not care much about which thieves (or how many) take advantage of your stolen information or how they monetize it; you just want to minimize the damage and prevent further losses. That requires a mix of corrective and preventative action.

If thieves have already made fraudulent purchases on your account or opened new accounts in your name, you must take immediate action. Call your card issuer immediately to have your current account closed and a new card reissued, and file the police reports and other paperwork necessary for your fraud protection.

Use the MoneyTips credit monitoring service to check your credit report for any fraudulent accounts that have been opened in your name, and contact the credit issuer(s) to close any accounts. Apply either a fraud alert (requiring creditors to verify your identity before issuing new credit) or a credit freeze (blocking most access to your credit report) to lessen the chances of more fraudulent accounts being opened in your name.

If you have not had any problems with stolen credit cards or identity theft, count your blessings — and take preventative action to keep your good fortune intact. Use strong passwords and do not repeat passwords for each site. Make sure that online purchases are made through legitimate and secure websites, and do not give your credit card information over non-secure public computers or unsecured wireless systems. Check your credit card statement regularly for any fraudulent purchases, no matter how small.

Still unsettled about identity theft? Consider using services that monitor your account activity and alert you to unusual activity.

Take proper actions to protect your credit, and hopefully you will never have to find out firsthand what happens when your credit is compromised — and if you do end up with compromised credit, know what actions to take to limit the damage. Make sure that thieves get the lowest return possible on their efforts.

If you would like to prevent identity theft, check out our credit monitoring service.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/AndreyPopov

Identity Theft Protection Comparison Chart!

Identity Theft Protection Comparison Chart
Service Name / Rating Price Fraud Monitoring ID Theft Insurance/
Guarantee Reports Delivered Computer Security Bottom Line

Identity Guard® Total Protection®

Go To Site:

Read Review

Free 30-day trial & 25% discount (all plans); $14.99/mo individual;
$22.99/mo couple;
$24.99/mo family Monitors 3-bureau credit reports, credit cards, public records, SSN, bank accounts, applications, Internet security $1,000,000 insurance 3 bureau credit scores and a public record report each quarter ZoneAlarm Internet security suite; anti-keylogging software; ID Vault software Most complete identity theft protection service we reviewed; 3-bureau credit report monitoring; credit report/score updates every quarter; 25% discount & free 30-day trial

AARP Identity Theft Protection from TrustedID an Equifax Company

Go To Site:

Read Review

Free 14-day trial & special AARP price; $9.16/mo (paid annually) Monitors 3-bureau credit reports, bank accounts, credit cards, SSN, public records, social media $1,000,000 service warranty Equifax credit reports & scores monthly; Transunion, Experian credit reports & scores annually None Comprehensive identity theft protection and credit report monitoring for AARP members and family; monthly Equifax credit reports and scores; special AARP price & free 14-day trial

LifeLock Ultimate Plus®

Go To Site:

Read Review

Free* 30-day trial; $24.75/mo** (w/annual prepay & our 10% discount) Monitors 3-bureau credit reports, applications, credit cards, SSN, driver’s license, address change, credit card and bank account activity, investment accounts, sex offender registry, court records $1,000,000 guarantee**** Equifax credit scores monthly; 3-bureau credit reports & scores annually None Thorough identity theft protection and 3-bureau credit report monitoring; annual 3-bureau credit reports and scores; monthly Equifax credit scores; somewhat costly even with 10% discount; free* 30-day trial

PrivacyGuard

Go To Site:

Read Review

30-day trial for $1; $14.99/mo (after our 25% discount) Monitors 3-bureau credit reports, Internet security, SSN, bank account numbers, debit/credit cards $1,000,000 insurance All 3 bureau reports & scores monthly Norton Internet Security 2014 Solid credit protection with monthly credit report/score updates as well as social security and financial account monitoring; 30-day trial for $1; includes computer protection software from Norton

CSID Protector Plus

Read Review

$9.99/mo Monitors 3-bureau credit reports, public records, credit cards, SSN, bank accounts, driver’s license, passports, medical IDs, address change, payday loan applications, sex offender registry, court records, emails, phone numbers $1,000,000 insurance TransUnion credit report monthly None Offers 3-bureau credit report monitoring and monthly TransUnion credit report; extensive information monitoring; relatively cheap prices but family plan only covers one adult instead of two
Service Name / Rating Price Fraud Monitoring ID Theft Insurance/
Guarantee Reports Delivered Computer Security Bottom Line

myFICO Ultimate 3B Credit and Identity Monitoring

Go To Site:

Read Review
$27.42/mo (paid annually); No free trial Monitors 3-bureau credit reports, credit cards, public records, SSN, bank accounts, driver’s license, passports, medical IDs, address change, payday loan applications $1,000,000 warranty 3-bureau credit scores updated in real-time; 3-bureau credit reports quarterly None Strong identity monitoring paired with comprehensive, 3-bureau FICO score monitoring; on the pricey side

LifeLock Advantage®

Go To Site:

Read Review

Free* 30-day trial; $16.50/mo** (w/annual prepay & our 10% discount) Monitors credit and debit cards, SSN, driver’s license on Internet black market and address change verification $1,000,000 guarantee**** None, unless plan is upgraded None Valuable identity theft protection and customer support for an affordable price, yet lacks in terms of credit report monitoring; 10% discount & free* 30-day trial

IDShield Identity Theft Protection

Read Review

$9.95/mo Monitors TransUnion credit report, credit/debit cards, emails, phone numbers, SSN, bank accounts, driver’s license, passport, insurance cards, change of address $5,000,000 service guarantee None None Complete restoration assistance from Kroll Advisory Solutions; frustrating user experience and poor customer service; limited credit monitoring

ProtectMyID

Read Review

7-day trial for $1; $19.95/mo Monitors Experian credit report, credit cards, SSN, address changes, public records $1,000,000 insurance One Experian credit report None An expensive option that lacks in protection; only includes Experian credit report monitoring; 7-day trial for $1 with enrollment; credit score and other credit reports cost extra

SSA Putting Millions of Americans at Risk

By: Elizabeth Harrington
The Washington Free Beacon

The Social Security Administration puts millions of Americans at risk for identity theft by putting their full Social Security Numbers on letters sent in the mail.

The agency’s inspector general released an audit this week warning the government that by sending hundreds of millions of letters containing individual’s Social Security Numbers it puts them at risk for identity theft.

“According to [the Social Security Administration] SSA, in 2015, it mailed about 233 million notices that included individuals’ full SSN,” the inspector general said. “We recognize SSA’s efforts can never eliminate the potential that dishonest individuals may inappropriately acquire and misuse SSNs. However, our audit and investigative work have shown that the more SSNs are unnecessarily used, the higher the probability that they could be used inappropriately.”

“The security of beneficiaries’ [Personally Identifiable Information] PII should be foremost, and as a Federal agency and public servant, we believe SSA should be in the forefront of establishing policy and practice by limiting SSN use and disclosure,” the audit said.

Sixty-six percent of the 352 million notices the agency sent out last year contained Americans’ full Social Security Numbers, and the government said it has no idea how many never made it to the correct address.“While it is unknown how many of the intended addressees received these notices, our audit work has shown that the addresses in SSA’s records can be inaccurate,” the inspector general said
“We asked SSA whether it maintained any estimates on the number of mailings that were returned as undeliverable. SSA stated that it did not have any Agency-level number on undeliverable mail,” they said. “SSA could not provide us an estimate of the number of notices with SSNs it mails annually that do not reach the intended recipients and are not returned to SSA.”

The inspector general warned that notices sent to the wrong address can increase identify theft, as it can give strangers access to vital personal information. “Notices intercepted by unintended recipients could provide SSA beneficiaries’ names, addresses, and SSNs to individuals other than the numberholders,” they said.

Auditors said they do not currently have documented proof of identity theft that has occurred as a result of agency letters going to the wrong address, though the agency acknowledged “there is a risk of identity theft anytime it sends correspondence that contains PII.”

The inspector general said identity theft is “one of the fastest-growing crimes” in the country.”

“With a stolen SSN, identity thieves can commit any number of financial crimes in the victim’s name or steal money from the victim,” the audit said. “If the victim is a senior citizen, the thief could even target their Social Security benefits.”

“SSA acknowledges that identity thieves may obtain another’s personal information by stealing their mail or rummaging through their trash,” the inspector general concluded. “It is, therefore, troubling that SSA continues including the full SSN on the majority of its mailings.”