Here is the exact text from a NJ Statehouse Bureau worker’s Press Release:

Blunder puts IDs at Risk

Social Security numbers ‘misdirected’ by agency Personal information of 28,000 ‘misdirected’

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nearly 30,000 unemployed New Jersey residents now have something else to do besides looking for work: They can worry about who may have their Social Security number.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development notified thousands of people last week that their personal information may have been sent to companies they never worked for.

Those who received warnings were told the state had no way of knowing whether their information was sent incorrectly.

“This letter is to inform you that due to an error at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development your name and Social Security number may have been accidentally delivered to an employer for which you did not work,” the letter reads.

Also included in the letter were details on how to halt the release of credit information, which is allowed by New Jersey’s Identity Theft Prevention Act. However, the letter also noted a freeze on credit reports can create problems when consumers seek loans that require creditors to access credit information.

“It’s important to remember the information was not stolen, simply misdirected,” reads the letter. “Nevertheless, you should be aware of the situation and alert for irregularities that may suggest your personal information may have fallen into the wrong hands.”

Letter recipients were directed to call the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs for more information on credit reporting and identity theft protection.

Labor Department spokesman Kevin Smith said warnings were mailed to 28,000 people, but he said the number affected is probably much smaller.

“This is a fluke,” he said. “This was just a clerical error.”

Smith said the error occurred when department staff last month sent first-quarter reports to businesses that included a list of former employees receiving unemployment benefits. Because some companies had laid off a significant number of employees, the reports were longer than usual, requiring staff members to stuff the envelopes by hand rather than by machine, Smith said.

Some reports, he said, were placed in the wrong envelopes. Smith said seven employers called the department to say they received information on people they never employed.

“We hope the only ones that were sent in error were the seven we heard from,” he said.

New Jersey has about 375,000 residents collecting unemployment benefits. About 240,000 companies receive notices about former employees collecting benefits.

The combination of a person’s Social Security number and name can be dangerous, said Pedro Morillas, legislative advocate for the Public Interest Research Group in California, which experienced one out of every six identity theft cases in 2006.

“They can rack up a huge bill and walk away,” he said. “That’s why a credit freeze is the best option.”

Jeff Lamm, spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said the agency has received several calls from concerned residents but is unsure if anyone has been a victim of identity theft so far.

“We’re letting people know what the law provides them,” he said.

New Jersey’s 2005 identity theft law requires companies to destroy personnel records that are no longer needed.

The number of identity theft victims in the United States increased 22 percent, to 9.9 million people, in 2008, according to Javelin Strategy & Research in San Francisco.

Other states have accidentally revealed people’s personal information. In California, 64,000 tax forms were sent to the wrong addresses in 2006 due to a computer glitch. Documents posted on an Iowa government website in 2005 included Social Security numbers. In Wisconsin, up to 5,000 residents had their numbers exposed last year when a folding error made them visible through an envelope window.

So once again for everyone, this problem continues to grow. Get a service to protect yourself, and feel free to contact me for recommendations.

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