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State: 'Human error' leads to three dozen people receiving someone else's unemployment information

Posted at 12:58 PM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 00:47:46-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — In New York State's daily coronavirus response update on Monday, Secretary to the Governor, Melissa DeRosa, acknowledged a data breach in New York State Unemployment Insurance in which people who had filed for unemployment received another person's information in the mail.

A reporter asked about a possible data breach at the Department of Labor, after she said she had received messages from someone who had filed an unemployment claim and received another person's information in the mail. Responding to the reporter's question, Governor Andrew Cuomo initially responded, "I have not heard about that at all, has anyone heard about that?" He then looked to DeRosa.

DeRosa responded to the question, saying there were three dozen people who received information due to a human error in which "two pieces of paper were stuck together and sent."

"Those people have been contacted, the ones who have not yet will be contacted today," DeRosa said. "They're going to receive free credit reporting and surveillance for a year and they're making sure to process those claims as a priority."

DeRosa reiterated that the state found the breach was not malicious, and was human error.

In Western New York, two brothers say this happened to them.

"It’s a heck of a mess," Bill said. The Buffalo-area man asked to be identified only by his first name for privacy reasons. On Monday morning, Bill received a letter from the State Department of Labor asking for more information almost a month after he filed for unemployment insurance. But the forms list more than just his own personal information.

“I found mine partially and I found another person from Ellenburg Depot in New York," he said. Two of the forms had Bill's information, but the third had someone else's from six hours away. The information included a full social security number, address, name, and even their quarterly earnings.

"We don’t know who may have received mine and I have received someone else's," Bill's brother, Mike said. He also asked to only be identified by his first name for privacy issues. The brothers filed for unemployment on the same day. Mike checked for a letter after his brother told him what happened. He also got someone else's information along with his own. This time a fellow Western New Yorker.

"I totally understand what they’re dealing with, but this is not just simply I’m delayed a week or two on my benefits. This is a situation where now my personal information is at risk," Mike said.

Bill added, "They have enough information…to do quite a bit of damage."

The Deanna Cohen from Department of Labor later released this statement:
"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."

Bill said he tried contacting the Department of Labor, but he couldn't get through: “I tried calling them 11-12 times and haven’t been able to get through.“ 7 Eyewitness News reached out to the Governor’s Office for comment and they pledged to work with these two brothers to fix the situation.

You can watch the full exchange below.