Family gets a tax surprise: someone else's private information

Family gets a tax surprise: someone else's private information

ST. HELENS, Ore. -- A local family received a surprise in the mail: an envelope from the Oregon Department of Revenue, addressed to them, but holding tax documents and the personal information of a stranger. 

Melody Killens of St. Helens contacted the KATU Problem Solvers for help.

"We were kind of shocked to get this," said Killens. "It's got her personal Social Security number, everything on it."

The information is for a woman in Nyssa, Idaho.

Killens said she called the Department of Revenue, and was told to destroy the documents. She did not like that response.

"She doesn't know me from Adam," said Killens. "I could have been a very bad person."

Killens also wanted to know if there was a mix-up and the Oregon Department of Revenue sent an envelope with her family's private information to someone else.

"We're left hanging, totally. We're hoping an honest person will actually return what came to them," said Killens.

The Problem Solvers took her concerns to Department of Revenue spokesman, Bob Estabrook.

"We wish that there was a way to prevent that in 100 percent of cases," said Estabrook.

He said this case appeared to be a mix-up, where an employee was working on two cases at the same time, and put the wrong documents in the wrong envelope.

"We have a lot of information at the agency," said Estabrook. "We have a lot of mail that goes out everyday to taxpayers across Oregon and it's unfortunate, but a reality that we are going to occasionally have situations where information does not flow as flawlessly as we would like."

Estabrook said employees were able to catch the mix-up and stop the second envelope, the one with Killen's family's information in it, from going out.

He said this kind of mix-up does not happen often, but if it does, the Department of Revenue hopes that people who receive the wrong documents will contact the state. That way, he says, the department can figure out what went wrong and provide credit monitoring for the people affected.

Estabrook says the department wants the person who received the wrong documents to destroy them or send them back.

"Obviously, there's no perfect system where we're never, ever going to have issues of mail going to the wrong destination," said Estabrook.

He said a new automated mail system is going into place, and it should help prevent this kind of human error at the Department of Revenue.