The Idaho Attorney General's office is recommending that anyone who got a campaign flier showing the Social Security numbers of a congressman and his wife shred it. “We’d urge ‘em to shred it,” said Deputy Attorney General Brett DeLange, who heads the office’s Consumer Protection Unit. “Don’t just throw it away, shred it.”
The release of a Social Security number doesn’t necessarily bring identity theft, but it could, DeLange said. When people’s Social Security numbers are released, he recommends they place a freeze on their credit with the three credit reporting agencies; that will prevent anyone from opening new accounts in their name without their direct permission, which is the main way identity thieves use such numbers for purposes of theft. The Consumer Protection Unit offers extensive information, including an identity theft manual and how to contact credit reporting agencies, on its Web site here.
Meanwhile, the Idaho Democratic Party has apologized for the incident, in which it sent out a campaign flier critical of GOP Rep. Bill Sali that included an illustration showing the Social Security numbers of both Sali and his wife, saying it was an “inadvertent oversight." Jim Hansen, party executive director, said, “As executive director, I take personal responsibility for the oversight. We agree that it would have been better to black out parts of the document, even though the public agency that released them did not.” When initially contacted about the flier, Hansen defended it, but he did say, “Frankly, I didn’t think about it. We just published a piece of public information. Anybody can go and get a public document.” The document in question was a 1988 tax lien against the Salis for unpaid state income taxes.
In a public statement and apology posted on the Idaho Democratic Party Web site, Hansen, while terming the incident “regrettable,” wrote, “Of course, if Bill Sali did not want public documents of his tax delinquencies and his campaign finance delinquencies to be made public by a public agency, he should have paid his taxes on time and filed his reports on time.”
GOP state Treasurer Ron Crane today also weighed in, putting out a press release accusing both the Idaho Democratic Party and Sali’s Democratic opponent, Walt Minnick, of acting “maliciously,” though the flier came from the party, not Minnick. "In one sense I am shocked and outraged that Walt Minnick and the Democrat Party would stoop to this,” Crane declared. “But, in another sense I recognize it goes along with their liberal ideology that the end justifies the means."
Hansen called Crane’s charge “ridiculous.” “I take full responsibility, just like our statement said, and it was completely unintentional,” he said.