Exclusive: DOE emails hundreds of teacher's assistants' social security numbers

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Jim Hoffer has the latest

New York City's Department of Education accidentally sent out an email that had not just the names, but also the Social Security numbers of hundreds of employees.

The DOE has apologized, but workers worry the damage is done.

One of the teacher's assistants affected told Eyewitness News exclusively that she's now one dishonest person away from identity theft.

"Once I opened it up and realized what it was I was horrified," said a teacher's assistant.

The teacher's assistant could not believe it when she opened an email attachment from the Department of Education.

"The attachment was a list of Department of Education para-professionals, exactly 439 names, first, last names and Social Security numbers," the teacher's assistant said.

It included her name and number and more than 400 others. She agreed to speak to us if Eyewitness News concealed her identity.

"I don't want my personal information on the internet for all to view and that is why I was horrified," she said.

The DOE says it sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience, but it's a little more than inconvenience when you consider how many Social Security numbers are involved: More than 400. It's a big mistake when you consider that the common denominator in most identity theft crimes is the Social Security number.

"All it takes is one dishonest person to do lots of harm to all of us, not just myself," she said.

When the Department of Education realized its mistake, it immediately emailed this letter to every teacher's assistant saying the data breach was a "clerical error." The letter goes on to say, "We are doing everything possible to remedy this situation so that your personal information is not compromised, including offering identity theft protection."

"They were going to communicate through email providing the information stating when we were going to be protected by Legal Shield, and here we are a week later and I have not received any such email," the teacher's assistant said.

She fears time is running out for her and others to protect themselves from the DOE's carelessness.

"I fall asleep and I wake up afraid that somewhere along the line I'm going to have to prove that I am who I am," she said.

The Department of Education has responded by saying, "This was an unacceptable error."

They say they took immediate steps to address the situation and will pay to enroll every one effected in identity theft protection.

DOE says it is reviewing its policies to ensure this does not happen again.

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