Norwalk investigating mailings containing Social Security numbers

City official: "We are very, very sorry. Unfortunately, we can't take it back at this point."
Scott Seitz2
Jan 30, 2014

Norwalk officials still are investigating how thousands of tax-related postcards containing citizens' Social Security numbers were mailed by a Cleveland company.

The situation was discussed at a city council meeting Tuesday night and first reported in the Norwalk Reflector the next day. A follow-up story also was published in Thursday's issue.

Diane Eschen, finance director, said the city provided Shamrock, the firm which processed the postcards, information including the Social Security numbers.

Eschen said the company assumed the numbers were city file or account numbers and printed them on the card that was mailed, not realizing they were Social Security numbers.

The cards were originally mailed to provide residents access to 2013 Norwalk municipal income tax forms.

City residents who received this first card should destroy it, Eschen said.

A second card is in the process of being mailed.

"Some residents have already received their second card," she said.

"We are very, very sorry," Eschen said. "Unfortunately, we can't take it back at this point."

Eschen said Shamrock is a large company that provides similar services for cities such as Toledo and Columbus.

The first batch of postcards cost $4,000, not including postage.

The second batch is being mailed at no cost to the city.

Eschen said though she knows it might not provide much consolation, the cards were sent to individuals with their own information.

"Shred it -- tear it up," she said.

Will the city contract with Shamrock in the future?

"At this point, we're having conversations with them," Eschen said.

Law Director Stuart O'Hara is also monitoring the situation.

"Sure, the city is upset and disappointed it happened," he said.

"Last year was the first time we did it," O'Hara said. "But, the cards last year did not have overt identifiers on it."

Jeff Colvin, Norwalk Certified Public Accountant, said Wednesday he originally called the city about the issue.

"I'm very concerned," Colvin said. "But, I'm not surprised anymore and that's not directed at the city, really at federal and state levels of government.

"Whether it's the federal or state level, everything has to be done fast," Colvin said, adding the emphasis is placed on getting thing done quickly at the federal and state level rather than correctly.

"This is stuff I see happen all the time," Colvin said. "Unfortunately, there's no accountability."

Comments

I Can Read

Well there you go, the city sent out our social security numbers. Fire the person in charge!!! No reason they should have sent those numbers out. Fire the finance director.

been_there_done_that

There should be accountability! The printer can only use numbers that are given to them!!! Why were social security numbers included in any correspondence to the printer to begin with? They didnt come into the City's computers and gather these numbers themselves. Who provided them?

Fibber Mcgee

Question, did Shamrock request the SSN's or need them to do the processing?
Oh yeah, let's fire the FD, the one person who knows more about city fiances
than any one.

rbenn

Blaming Diane at this juncture is pre mature but if it comes out that this was her fault then she has to be let go.

Whopper2013

Nice to know..now I know who to sue if my identity gets stolen

kingd

They were already sent out and delivered. The SS# is on the inside and not visible unless opened since they are a folded card. Sending them again won't undo what's already been done.

csnighthawk

"Sending them again won't undo what's already been done."

@kingd,

If someone mails in the 1st card the citizen's SS# will be seen.
The SS# is not included in the Cleveland return address of the 2nd card.

all fact or all...

I also received my neighbors card in the mail...it reminded me of getting our water bill on a postcard that often got lost or thrown out or even stuck in a magazine...on the heels of the credit card breach and hacking of Targets computer systems....which I urge. You to look at your bank statements...I was notified by my bank of an attempted use of my CC number and was told to look over my statement again these amounts can be as simple as $1.00 to in my case $270.00 for a skating rink in TX...with our lives out there for the world to see...a simple swipe of your CC ,ordering online..and most importantly our SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER...if this was a simple mistake by myself I would be penalized given a late fee..charged for a new CC...but because the City says I'm sorry!!! That's acceptable...so next time I pay my water bill late by a day because I was on vacation!!!!! IM GOING TO JUST TELL YOU IM SORRY AND YOU CAN TAKE OFF THE 5.00 LATE FEE....if it's ok for you then should be ok for me!!!!!!

In my opinon

@all fact..I agree a simple I am very, very sorry just doesn't cut it. With all the attention out there on hackers and fraud, the SS #'s should be the last thing on a card being sent through the mail. They stopped printing them on checks, and driver's licence's years ago because of identity theft. These are not new employee's we are talking about. I am sure they would not be so understanding if someone mistakenly wrote the wrong amount on their tax forms. Oh, we understand we made a huge mistake with your SS#. Bullcrap! It will get swept under the rug.

KURTje

What rbenn said...sorta. They said sorry, that means they owned up 2 it. They admitted a mistake. The person in responsible for the error should be taken to task.

Contango

Was a proof not given or requested?

More incompetence from the Duncan admin.

Re-elect Duncan in 2015?

barkett2

Talking to a LAWYER will see what comes of this. God only knows how MANY people have seen my SS#. You didn't even have to open the card to see what was written on it.Was only sealed on ONE end.

Contango

It'll all soon be forgotten and then, 'ol Mayor "jobs, jobs, jobs" Duncan can get back to crowing about all the part-time retail jobs that have been created during his admin.

Re-elect Duncan in 2015?

methodman

Or continue to read your rants. I'll vote for anyone else just to stop your constant bit-ching. Do u have a dart board with the mayors face on it?

Dr. Information

Can't Norwalk get someone lined up that looks halfway decent to give an interview to Fox 8 News? I mean come on man, does this town only have sad, homely looking residents to interview?????????

Cliff Cannon

I have the utmost regard for Diane Eschen. Further,I believe that Norwalk is very,very lucky to have this extremely talented women running our finance dept.


This is obviously, a mistake that every last one of us, wish hadn't happened. Yet, it did. Which proves exactly one thing :Diane and her assistants are human.


And of course, humans make mistakes. Toss in computers 'talking' to one another, sprinkle in error's in---- mankind's weakest spot communication--- and we end up with : It's over ( at least for me) and what did we learn from this ?


What I learned is to respect Diane Eschen even more. Because I for one just love a person with the guts to stand up after a mistake like this and say " "We are very, very sorry," Eschen said "Unfortunately, we can't take it back at this point."


Apology accepted Diane and thanks again for all you do for our city

WASP71

Cliff- apologies are accepted everyday on things that people screw up on the job. And yes, I will also accept her apology. But she has to be held responsible for what happened on her watch. A mistake like this is a huge mistake in this day and age of stolen identities, etc. She should take the consequences and if that includes being terminated, suspended, etc. then that is what should happen. A simple "I'm sorry" in this instance is not enough. We don't want to put up with an "I'm sorry" from a heroin dealer, so why should we put up with it from someone who could quite possibly have just sent out the number that will connect someone to my bank account, retirement account, personal information, etc.? She need to be held accountable, and working for a town/city, they should be held somewhat higher. My opinion.

Cliff Cannon

@ WASP71 : I understand your point. Further, in debate, one must never forget , that every point has 360 degree's around it, which leaves plenty of room for multiple people to be correct. Would you agree ?


I also am very paranoid about buying anything on the internet or how I use my credit card in gas stations ( I always hit the 'clear' and 'enter' buttons several times to get the computer away from my transaction )


Further, it is sickening to me just how much personal info is available across the 'net on well, virtually everyone. So I certainly do not like my S.S. number to be anywhere other than in my memory


I also agree with you on 'accountability ' and wish that ---everyone held themselves --- to high standards of workmanship. That way, our factory's to name one, would probably not be leaving America at such a high rate of speed.


I conclude with 2 thoughts: My mailing, like everyone's ( I presume ) had my S.S. only on the inside for my viewing. So I believe ( correctly, I hope )that potential for I.D. theft is minimized.


Then I point out as I did to Contango that Mayor Duncan told me Mrs. Eschen's dept. has 2 fewer employee's than in years past and that given the speed that federal & state agency's require which CPA Colvin pointed out. That bad things can and do happen.


So I for one,will move on from this all the while hoping there is no damage to anyone from this.

P.S. As always,your commentary, even in rebuttal, is thought provoking and well written. Thanks for that.

Contango

Re: "Mrs. Eschen's dept. has 2 fewer employee's than in years past,"

An 'excuse' NOT a reason.

This current and immediate past administrations haven't seen a spending measure (sanitation & fire trucks, lumber yd, et. al) that they didn't like.

The fiscal chickens are coming home to roost.

Cliff Cannon

Please note I am the only one who has stated that " "Mrs. Eschen's dept. has 2 fewer employee's than in years past," So no one besides me has offered this as a plausible explanation

Contango

Re: "plausible explanation,"

And computers and programs have eliminated the need for secretaries sitting at desks with adding machines spewing reams of paper.

In this regard, number of ees. is in no way a justification for plausible deniability.

Lawyerintraining

Mr. Cannon. Are you or have you ever been in the military...if you have or if you currently serving then you are well aware that even in the United States Goverment all employees are known for there SSN you have to give this to anyone you come into contact with while serving and or being on any military facility...if you have stepped foot in the VFW then you will know that this town is full of military vets as well as retires...we clearly see which side you are on..but to say you can't see the SSN on the card that was sent is clearly NOT TRUE all you had to do was squeeze it then for people to say you don't know what kind of number it was..again really your SSN has always 3 2 4 (000-00-0000) with or without dashes it clearly was not your birthday (00-00-0000) or even a phone/cell (000-000-0000) the only other number and thank goodness it wasn't our bank acct.number....I agree with the person who says to retain an attorney for IDENTITY THEFT!!! Don't ever say it can't happen to you...and mr Cannon I sure hope it never happens to you and or someone you may know...other than our birthdays and finger prints our SSN is and defines who we are and when that's taken from you...it is like being violated...sad part is the person who is violated is the one who has to PROVE who they are NOT the person who stole it....put aside who we elected and how good and or what mistakes they have made...the point is wouldn't it be nice to throw up are hands and say OOPS SORRY...well it simply doesn't work that way in this situation...we were violated and now all we can do is watch our bank accounts hope our SSN wasn't compromised and pray that the person who accidentally received our card is an honest person...no matter how many VERYS were put in front of the word SORRY is going to make anyone feel good :(

Cliff Cannon

@lawyerintraining : I apologize. Despite reading your commentary several times, I do not see how my comments factor into your point. Other than perhaps I am supposed to be some sort of weirdo because I forgive people.


If that's the case. Please know I plan on being life long weirdo. Because forgiving folks makes my life a better, happier one.

Contango

Re: "forgive people."

The city is still out $4K for a botched job.

Whose idea was this and why?

If one was requested or provided, who OK'd the printed proof?

Also; Fox seemed to get better answers than the NR. Wonder why?

JACKEL

Good post,Cliff !

Contango

Re: "extremely talented women,"

So "talented" that $25K was requested so an outside firm could perform a five yr. fiscal projection?

Keep 'whistlin' past the graveyard' my friend.

See Henry Timman's column in the 1/31 edition. One view of a potential future?

Cliff Cannon

Re:" So "talented" that $25K was requested so an outside firm could perform a five yr. fiscal projection ? "

Contango of course, this idea surfaced early last year, then disappeared for awhile. Then it resurfaced as part of next years budget,right ?


It also hit the 'Reflector ' internet on a Friday and I for one quickly said I did not like the idea for 2 reasons.One because we have a genius by the name of Diane Eschen running our finances who could do this and two because if another 'Janesville ' hit us. The study becomes a paper weight.


So the next day, was volunteer brush pick up from the then recent damaging storm that had hit us, with Mayor Duncan serving as coordinator.


He, obviously having read the blogs agreed with me on Mrs. Eschen's talents and said ---no doubt, she could do it. The problem was--- her department now has 2 fewer employee's--- than in year's past. So having the time to get it done was the crucial issue.


So what we know for sure here is not who did what, but rather the truth that CPA Colvin speaks " whether it is at the federal or state level everything has to be done fast ". Which I think we all can agree " fast " can often lead to mistakes in any field, ( especially when your doing the work with 2 fewer employee's than in years past ) can't it ?


Mayor Duncan also said another thing regarding Mrs. Eschen, that she can retire at virtually any moment. I offered to solve that problem for him as well saying " I have a log chain in my barn and I'll bring it in and chain her to her desk " Despite this mistake ( and who knows exactly how it happened ? ). I am still willing to bring that chain into city hall to keep her there.

Contango

@ CC:

"Diane Eschen, finance director, said the city provided Shamrock, the firm which processed the postcards, information including the Social Security numbers."

The Duncan admin. reads like it is pointing fingers at Shamrock.

Not unlike the Obama admin. faulting healthcare.gov contractor CGI Federal for the disastrous Obamacare rollout.

Again: The city didn't request or were provided with a proof?

We're sorry? That's it?

No accountability for govt. incompetency and instead we're presented with plausible deniability?

Stay positive Mr. Cannon - you need it.

Cliff Cannon

" Stay positive Mr. Cannon - you need it. " You can count on that my friend.

P.S. All of a sudden your 'Mayor Contango ' How would you resolve this ?

Contango

Re: "You can count on that my friend."

I "love" ya Mr. Cannon, but positivism in this regard brings to mind the old cliché about re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

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