By RYAN MORGAN
Scripps Howard News Service
December 13, 2006
The Selective Service System mails notices to young men when they turn 18. The notice is a postcard with the recipient's full name, address, date of birth and Social Security number printed on one side. That information is covered by a tear-off flap when the mailing is sent out.
Instructions on the card tell the recipient to tear off the flap and check the information. If the data is correct, the recipient doesn't need to do anything. If any of the information is incorrect, the recipient is directed to correct it on the card and mail it back.
If the recipient follows those directions, he's putting a card in the mail that includes just about every piece of information an identity thief would need to borrow money or make purchases in his name.
Cynthia Taylor, director of the Consumer Affairs division of the Boulder County District Attorney's Office, said her "eyes just popped out" when she heard about the mailing.
"I was horrified that the federal government would put people at risk in this manner," she said.
Taylor said the risk lies in the fact that the agency has put every piece of critical information right out in the open where someone could steal it.
"Anytime somebody's Social Security number or birth date are out in the public, it carries a risk," she said. "I understand that the federal government may want to save some money (by using post cards), but there is a greater risk to the public in putting this out in the form of a postcard.
"It should be in an envelope."
Selective Service spokesman Dick Flahavan said the service has heard complaints about the possibility of identity theft and will start sending cards designed to cover the recipients' vital information - as soon as the supply of existing cards has been sent out later this month.
"They've redesigned the card," he said. "It'll be folded over and sealed on three sides with a mailer envelope. That's already been programmed. As soon as we deplete what's on the shelf in about 30 days, the new arrangement will kick in."
Flahavan said the cards were made self-mailers to save money.
The only real risk is to people who need to make changes to their information and mail in the card, he said. And instructions the service includes with the mailing tell recipients to put the card in an envelope "if they have concerns about security."
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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