Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Protect Your Employees’ Social Security Numbers!

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. One of the primary ways that identity theft occurs is through the misuse of another person’s Social Security Number. 

Due to this, in 2010 the Illinois General Assembly passed the Identity Protection Act (5 ILCS 179/10). Employers should be aware of this law and ensure that they are not unwittingly violating it. 

The Identity Protection Act requires employers, both public and private, to protect social security numbers. The Act makes it a crime for employers to do the following:
  • Publicly post an individual’s Social Security Number;
  • Print an individual’s Social Security Number on any card required to access products to services;
  • Require a Social Security Number to be transmitted over the internet unless the connection is secure of the social security number is encrypted;
  • Mail any materials containing an individual’s Social Security Number. 
  • Require an individual to use his Social Security Number to access the internet
Additionally, if a local government receives a FOIA request, it must redact all Social Security Number in the documents it turns over. 

The Act also requires both state and local governments to create an “identity-protection policy.” This policy must contain a plan to train employees on the protection of Social Security Number. It also must detail who is allowed to access documents containing Social Security Numbers, and should only allow those who need to see a document containing Social Security Number to have access to it. The plan also must require that a statement of the purpose for which Social Security Number is being collected to be transmitted to be given to anyone providing their Social Security Number.

If you are a local government employer and you do not have such a plan in place, we encourage you to do so ASAP. Feel free to contact us for help putting such a plan together.