The IRS mistakenly sent “sensitive taxpayer data” intended for a California accountant to a nearby small business in September, exposing one man’s Social Security number, wage and tax information and third-party network payments, FoxNews.com has learned.
The 10-page document, dated Sept. 10, was addressed to a certified public accountant in Thousand Oaks but was erroneously sent to a fax machine at a tire supply warehouse in the same town, which is roughly 35 miles outside Los Angeles. It contains “wage and income” data, according to its cover page, from 2010-12 of a Simi Valley man whose sensitive data was seemingly exposed without his knowledge.
“This communication is intended for the sole use of the individual to whom it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law,” a disclaimer on the cover page reads. “If the reader of this communication is not the intended recipient or the employee or the agent for delivering the communication to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this communication may be strictly prohibited.”
Derek Broes, a Seattle-based technology and media entrepreneur, learned of the errant fax from his cousin, who is married to the owner of TO Tire Supply. Broes said he was shocked to learn that IRS officials did not use a verified number to send the information, which he claims could easily be used to deplete the man’s bank account and launch a new identity within minutes.
“This information shouldn’t be in anyone’s hands but the person who owns the information,” Broes told FoxNews.com. “There’s a whole lot of stuff here to do a whole lot of destruction. His life could be destroyed. You don’t handwrite this type of information, it has to be verified. It’s pretty bad.”
Broes said he attempted to notify the IRS of the mistake, but never got to a live operator. Neither the CPA nor the Simi Valley man could be reached for comment.
As an entrepreneur who understands the cost of protecting employees’ personal information, Broes said he was particularly concerned that small and large businesses are subjected to stringent regulations regarding the very type of information that was misdirected by federal employees.
“The amount of money I would have to invest to make sure this doesn’t happen … and that’s forced on me as a business owner,” Broes continued. “But yet it happens so easily on their behalf? What’s the point of enforcing the regulation?”
The recurring cost to protect such data could exceed millions, particularly for large companies with thousands of employees, Broes said.
Anthony Burke, an IRS spokesman, told FoxNews.com he was looking into the matter early Friday.
Broes noted that the IRS will be in charge of enforcing many aspects of ObamaCare and questioned if the errant fax is representative of the way the agency handles Americans' most personal information.
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” he told FoxNews.com. “Either get it right or don’t do it. It’s a joke.”