State Labor Department Admits Accidental Release Of Personal Info
Posted May 5, 2004 6:02 a.m. EDT
GREENE COUNTY, N.C. — From taxpayer identification to social security numbers, the state Department of Labor handles all kinds of personal information. Under the law, they are supposed to protect it. Now, the agency confirms it carelessly released private documents to the wrong people.
When Rick Spencer opened a letter from the North Carolina Department of Labor, he expected a response to his wage dispute with a former employer. He found a whole lot more.
"I was surprised to find that I was also sent my employer's quarterly tax and wage report," he said.
In addition to his personal information, the letter contained social security numbers and wage details for eight of Spencer's former co-workers at Performance East in Goldsboro.
"I shouldn't be getting this type of information and the more I thought about it, I wondered who's got my information," Spencer said.
"I was appalled. It's just not the kind of thing that's acceptable," said Barbara Jackson, attorney for the state Department of Labor.
Jackson said the Wage and Hour Bureau violated policy and federal law by releasing the sensitive information.
"They seem to have been unfamiliar with the policy, so we're concerned about that and we have corrected it," she said.
Following WRAL's inquiry, Jackson issued a memo to all labor supervisors reiterating the policy.
"You can't turn the TV on without seeing some news report of identity fraud," Spencer said. "There's a lot of criminals out there that would love to have this information."
Private information was not compromised in this case. However, since the Wage and Hour Bureau was not aware of the policy, it is unclear how many times private information may have been sent to the wrong people.
The numbers show credit card fraud is the most common type of identity theft in North Carolina. It accounts for about 31 percent of cases. Phone or utility bills make up about 22 percent of cases while bank fraud about 15 percent. Charlotte tops the state in the number of cases reported, followed by Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham and Fayetteville.