By Kurtis Ming

Protecting your social security number is key to preventing identity theft.  When a Turlock woman saw her social security number clearly displayed on her utility bill, she didn’t know what to do, so she called Kurtis Ming.

Margie and Tim Humphres are still settling into their new Turlock home after recently moving from Ceres.

One of the final bills from their old home came with a surprise.

“I was shocked, frustrated,” said Margie.

Right through the window of their final Ceres utility bill, you could read her most sensitive information.

“It has my social security number on there twice, and then my driver’s license number on there twice,” said Margie.

She called the city, which apologized, but that wasn’t good enough.

“How many hands did this pass through that saw my personal information?” asked Margie.

And how could Ceres allow this to happen?

“For a reason that our software company has yet to explain to us, it pulled in that field that contained that information for her in particular,” said Suzanne Dean, the City of Ceres’ Deputy Finance Director.

Dean launched an investigation, and says someone must have inadvertently entered into the name field Margie’s social security number and driver’s license, which is not standard practice.

Dean’s staffers have checked and found  no one else has been affected.

“We have 12,000 accounts and 141 had information in that field and most of them were spouses names.  This was the one account that had something that wasn’t supposed to be in there,” said Dean.

They don’t know who is responsible, but Dean says they’re now giving utility clerks additional training.

“You know financially, it could be a huge problem,” said Margie.

Still worried about security, she filed a claim for Ceres to provide identity theft protection, hopefully easing her fears so she can get back to finishing the move.

“Yeah we’re still moving in.  We have a lot of stuff,” said Margie.

Ceres says they initially request social security numbers and drivers license numbers when customers start up service.

The City of Ceres says they’ve been double-checking accounts and re-training clerks to make sure customers’ identities are protected. Any sensitive information they do have is in a secured database that only certain people have access to.

Margie has pulled her credit report.  So far, she hasn’t seen any suspicious activity.

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