State DOL gaffe agitates already agitated crowd

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An unknown number of state residents already frustrated with the state's overwhelmed unemployment system got mail this week that included personal details of strangers.

An unknown number of state residents got in the mail documentation for strangers that included high-level personal information, such as Social Security numbers and annual income.

The state Department of Labor said “roughly two dozen” individuals have been impacted by the error.

But that number seems to be a low estimate based on the individuals who commented on a private Facebook page dedicated to giving people an opportunity to vent their frustrations with the state’s overwhelmed unemployment system that has left some people without pay for a month as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“A small group of individuals received an errant sheet of paper in a recent mailing due to a mechanical issue with a mail sorting machine – we have been in touch with everyone we know who has been impacted, to provide them with the correct information on their claim and will offer these individuals one year of free credit and identity theft monitoring services,” the state Department of Labor said in a prepared statement.

Three western New York residents contacted News 4 Investigates about the gaffe, saying they each had personal details of some stranger.

“I look at the bottom and I’m like ‘that’s not my employer, what the heck is going on here,’”? said Sarah Krueger, who got personal details of a self-employed man from Schenectady, NY, almost 300 miles away.

She conduced a web search for the gentleman and called him to let him know she had his documentation for unemployment with his personal information.

“He goes, ‘I cannot tell you how thankful I am you called,’” Krueger said. “His wife got the same thing.”

“I’m really upset,” she added. “This is terrible. Once they steal your identity, the banks aren’t going to care.”

Carol Caldwell said her husband’s official state mail also included private details of a stranger. On Tuesday, she was on the identity theft protection website LifeLock, when a News 4 investigative producer called her.

“I don’t know where this has gone,” she said.

“What the hell is going on? Now we have to worry about identity theft on top of everything else?”

Caldwell said she, too, called the person to inform him about the breach. She is mailing the man’s documents to the correct address.

Meanwhile, she posted her concerns on a Facebook page dedicated to people who need to vent off their frustrations with the Department of Labor. Her post has more than 330 comments, with at least four similar posts on the page.

“A whole lot of them are telling me they got the same thing – a letter in the mail with someone else’s information,” Caldwell said.

“It is heartbreaking to me that the state would do this.”

The state said a “limited mechanical issue” with the mail sorting machine caused pieces of paper to stick together.

Although the state said it has been in contact with everyone who is impacted, none of the three individuals who spoke with News 4 had received a call.

Anyone who received in the mail a stranger’s documentation should contact the DOL either by phone (888) 209-8124 or they can send a message through their two-way communication when they log into their NY.gov ID.

Dan Telvock is an award-winning investigative producer and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of his work here.

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