The California State Auditor is warning once again that the the Employment Development Department is putting Californians at risk of identity theft. On Thursday, Elaine Howell sent to Governor Gavin Newsom a letter in which she says the EDD has sent at least 38 million pieces of mail containing claimant's full social security numbers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of this year. She insists that EDD has act quickly to better safeguard the identities of the people it serves.
Howell says her office first raised the concern in March of 2019. At that time, her staff reportedly found 13 million pieces of mail had people’s Social Security numbers on them.
"The recent surge in unemployment insurance (unemployment) claims resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has further revealed the dangers of EDD's practices," she writes. "As millions more Californians filed unemployment benefit claims, the number of pieces of mail that EDD sent with SSNs printed on them increased dramatically."
EDD has made progress in removing SSNs from some of the forms Howell's team reviewed, it has not removed them from the three that it most frequently send via the mail, according to the report.
California Assemblyman Jim Patterson held a news conference via Zoom on Thursday and had harsh words for EDD.
"The EDD is an accomplice in identity theft and fraud. The State Auditor has been warning EDD about sending social security numbers through the mail for years," said the Assemblyman. "EDD knows that scammers are on the lookout for this information. They have thumbed their nose at state law and have put the identities of 38 million Californians at risk. The Governor needs to get a hold of this rogue department, clean house at every level and start demanding that they stop breaking the law."
EDD officials said Friday that they have met with the Auditor and acknowledged that they have not made the recommended changes at this point, according an emailed response. Their indicates EDD is on track to remove the Social Security Numbers of the top three forms by August of 2021.