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Are Social Security Numbers In Illinois At Risk For Fraud From Other State Agencies?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- CBS 2 exposed how the state unemployment department mailed out full Social Security numbers to random strangers.

The agency thanked us and immediately promised never to do it again. But what about other branches of the Illinois government? CBS 2's Lauren Victory is always investigating and had the answer Wednesday.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker blamed scammers for the problem.

"I appreciate you raising the issue about all the other agencies," Pritzker said.

But he immediately ducked and blamed scammers, even pushing the blame elsewhere.

"This is a federal problem. This is a federal issue," Pritzker said.

Joe and Diane reached out to CBS after getting letters in their mailboxes sent by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The letters contained the full Social Security numbers of random strangers.

IDES thanked CBS 2 for flagging the issue, and took immediate action to prevent scammers from doing this again, vowing to ''suppress PPI on correspondence."

PPI is government jargon for personal identifying information. In plain English: full Social Security numbers.

Illinois law cracked down on the mailing of Social Security numbers back in 2010. The only real exceptions: unemployment and the revenue department, aka the tax collector. On Tuesday, the revenue department confirmed that it still does mail out full Social Security numbers, when it needs to collect.

What do other states do? CBS 2 heard from at least eight states and their responses were similar: they don't use Social Security numbers. Of the states that responded to us, only Oregon uses full socials for collections, much like Illinois.

Maureen Mahoney is a policy analyst with Consumer Reports, specializing in privacy and security.sot from consumer reports zoom 0:20 identity theft is a real concern.

"Identity theft is a real concern. Wherever possible, there should be steps taken to move away from mailing the whole SSN and find other ways to identify people accurately that don't compromise privacy and raise identity theft prospects," Mahoney said.

CBS 2 asked the Illinois Department of Revenue repeatedly why not stop mailing out full socials and learn from the debacle at IDES? It insists full socials are needed for collections, adding that fraudsters cannot interfere with its mailings.

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