Protecting yourself

Equifax promotes credit monitoring to its employees following tax mailing mishap

Jeremy Simon

U.S. credit bureaus typically advertise their credit monitoring services as a way for consumers to keep tabs on any unusual account activity. However, credit bureau Equifax was recently prompted to highlight the service to its own employees after a mailing potentially exposed the Social Security numbers of current and former workers.

According to a report by CNET (and later confirmed by Equifax), an undisclosed number of the credit bureau’s current and former employees were mailed W-2 forms in January that made their Social Security numbers potentially visible through the envelopes’ plastic windows.

CNET included a copy of the letter mailed to former Equifax employees:

“Equifax became aware of the problem on January 19 and informed employees in a letter dated January 27, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNET.S

Specifically, some of the tax forms mailed by Equifax’s payroll vendor through the U.S. Postal Service had the Social Security number in a Control Number field, which was partially or fully viewable through the return address window, Coretha Rushing, chief human resources officer at Equifax, wrote in the letter.

“Control Numbers were intended to be a unique number, not a SSN,” she said.

Equifax spokesman Tim Klein tells me that in some instances, due to the payroll vendor’s error, it would have been possible to tap a closed envelope in order to expose the employee’s Social Security number listed on the enclosed mailing.

Klein says that while the number was not necessarily identifiable as a Social Security number (for example, it lacked the dashes typical of those numbers), the bureau decided to take a precautionary step and warn its workers.

“We think that the likelihood of anyone identifying the number as a Social Security number was relatively slim,” Klein says. “The payroll vendor quickly corrected the issue so we believe it’s past us and resolved.”

As for promoting credit monitoring to its employees, Klein says that service is already offered as a worker benefit, but that Equifax was simply reminding any concerned individuals about their right to sign up for free protection.

See related: States’ weapon of choice against ID theft: Transparency, 10 ways to protect yourself from data breaches, Credit card fraud monitoring can halt legitimate purchases

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  • John Browne

    Very interesting article. Cannot imagine it happening to a credit reporting agency. Thanks for sharing!