Evanston provides a year of free protection services, monitoring to employees after mishandling tax information


Daily file photo by Julia Jacobs

Marty Lyons, Evanston’s chief financial officer, speaks at a City Council meeting Monday. Lyons said Evanston would provide a year of free identity theft insurance and credit monitoring to employees whose tax information was mishandled in the mail.

Rishika Dugyala, Assistant City Editor

Evanston will provide free, year-long identity theft insurance and credit monitoring to employees whose tax information was accidentally revealed in the mail.

Marty Lyons, Evanston’s chief financial officer, told members of City Council’s Administration and Public Works Committee on Monday that in addition to the employees’ social security numbers being displayed through the envelopes’ windows, the envelopes themselves were not properly sealed and were even unsealed in some cases. Lyons said he received one of these unsealed envelopes.

Employees who were impacted will have the chance to sign up to receive free credit monitoring and insurance to make sure nobody is accessing their information, Lyons said. Employees can sign up until  April 7, 2017.

“We hope (employees) take advantage of the offer to employ the security services,” Lyons said.

David Ellis, a retired Evanston firefighter and paramedic, told council members at the meeting that as a result of the exposed information on the tax forms, there were attempts to hijack information from some active firefighters and establish credit under their names. Ellis urged city officials to find a backup protection service to safeguard employees’ information for future instances.

Retired Evanston police officer Timothy Schoolmaster also received an envelope displaying his social security number, and he expressed his “dismay” toward the city’s handling of the forms at the council meeting later Monday night.

Schoolmaster said the form’s instructions recommend to record only the last four digits of a social security number rather than the entire number, so he did not understand why all nine digits were printed.

“I am told that people in this building stuffed the envelopes,” Schoolmaster said. “I can’t imagine that you would stuff 700 envelopes and not notice that there was personal information visible.”

After receiving his form, which the city sent on March 25, Schoolmaster said he emailed Lyons and other city officials to inform them about the issue. However, up until Monday — 17 days later — Schoolmaster said he saw no outreach or response on the issue by any city officials.

Schoolmaster acknowledged Lyons’s offer of the free year-long credit monitoring and identity theft protection services by suggesting that three years would be more appropriate. He also said the city should establish a fund to compensate people for financial losses from the cost of freezing their credit.

“The citizens of Evanston have a justified expectation of competence, responsibility, honesty and integrity in the conduct of city business,” Schoolmaster said. “There have been serious failures of those expectations demonstrated by the city manager and his staff in the handling of this breach.”

Email: rishikadugyala2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @rdugyala822