Social Security Numbers on Form 990 = Identity Theft Risk

April 25, 2012

A recent study published by Identity Finder, a security and privacy software company, revealed that nearly half a million social security numbers were included in public filings of Form 990. The study reports that between 2001 and 2006, 18% of all non-profit organizations included at least one social security number on their Form 990. Since these forms are permanently public, this practice opens these individuals to identity theft.

Personal information gets reported when there are individual scholarship recipients, tax preparers, employees and in some cases individual donors. The charities that disclose this information can be held liable if the information is fraudulently misused.

The IRS does NOT require organizations to include social security numbers on Form 990 – even for the tax preparers who are required to provide their tax id next to their signatures. The instructions state that they should NOT provide social security numbers.