Was faulty CT tax mailing a huge privacy violation?

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CT Mirror

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk

Could 27,000 Connecticut residents’ Social Security numbers have been mailed – along with their names and addresses – to households other than their own?

A top Republican lawmaker demanded answers Monday after reviewing one of the thousands of faulty tax forms the state Labor Department acknowledged sending out late last week.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, R-Norwalk, also said he wants to know if the state mailed incorrect tax data regarding unemployment recipients to the IRS.

“How did this happen? To what extent did this happen?” Cafero said during a midafternoon news conference at the State Capitol, adding that a letter seeking details was being sent to the department. “These people’s privacy was violated to an incredible degree.”

The Labor Department disclosed Friday that approximately 27,000 tax forms involving individuals who received unemployment compensation in 2013 “contain a printing error” and must be mailed again.

According to the department website, recipients in 52 U.S. Postal Service ZIP code areas were affected.

On Monday, Cafero disclosed a redacted copy of paperwork that an unemployment recipient had shared with the House GOP Caucus.

The top half included the recipient’s name, address, Social Security number and total unemployment benefits received.

The bottom half – which is supposed to be a duplicate copy – included the same information for a different recipient.

Did all 27,000 faulty documents issued by the department accidentally disclose key privacy data? Cafero asked. In other words, do 27,000 households now have the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of strangers?

The potential for identity theft-related crime is huge, he said, adding that “you could do a whole ton of things” with that information.

Labor Department spokeswoman Nancy Steffens said while the matter still is being reviewed, “we do expect that (this Social Security error) is probably in all 27,000.”

The state also shares unemployment benefit data with federal tax officials, but Steffens couldn’t say Monday if faulty information had been sent to the IRS.

“Our priority right now is helping the affected claimants,” Steffens said, adding that the department is reaching out to all those affected and offering credit protection services.

Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer said Friday, “We apologize for the inconvenience,” but Cafero said, “to use that word is insulting. … This is just a huge, huge screw-up, and we need some answers.”

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