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FedEx tries to recall up to 8,500 faulty W-2s
[February 04, 2006]

FedEx tries to recall up to 8,500 faulty W-2s

(Orange County Register, The (CA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Feb. 4--FedEx Freight West officials were scrambling today to recall W-2s sent to as many as 8,500 employees after learning that some of the forms also included other workers' tax information. Up to 1,100 workers in the Los Angeles-Orange County area could be affected.

"The company's very concerned and taking it very seriously," said Sally Davenport, a spokeswoman at the company's Memphis headquarters.

She said the company learned about the problem on Tuesday when employees started reporting that one segment of their W-2s included another worker's W-2, including Social Security number, pay and tax information.

The company isn't sure how it happened, although they think their internal processing center, which was responsible for printing and mailing the W2s, may have misaligned the forms so that they weren't cutting off at the proper place. Davenport said it was unclear how many employees got someone else's information.

FedEx workers received an e-mail Tuesday from Rick Medefesser, senior manager of human resources, advising them of the error. He asked them not to open their W-2s and to promptly return the envelope to their manager. Davenport said new W-2s would be issued as quickly as possible.

Many workers, however, had already opened their W-2s and were upset about the possibility of identity theft as well as having their pay information get out.

Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, said she hears about the erroneous release of private information due to a processing problem two or three times a year. It's unusual, however, to involve W-2s. More often it is a bank or other financial institution that sends out statements to the wrong people because of a sorting error.

"These things do happen and it really is a terrible situation," she said.

In most cases, fellow workers won't share someone else's confidential information, she said. In FedEx's case, however, as many as 2,500 of the W-2s went to people who are no longer employed with the company.

Givens advised workers concerned about identity theft to contact the three major credit reporting agencies and put a 90-day fraud alert on their files. That will allow them to get a free copy of their credit report. Then, four or five months later, they should apply for the free annual credit report allowed by law to check for any problems.

Philip Barquer, a human resources specialist at HR Alternatives in Newport Beach, said the best way for an employer to deal with the upset caused by this kind of error is to notify workers immediately, set up a system to get the forms back as quickly as possible and stress that any information contained in the W-2s confidential.

Instead of having workers return the W-2s to their supervisors, Barquer recommended the employer provide them with a pre-addressed, stamped envelope marked confidential front and back to further ensure as few people as possible have access to the information.

Although employers are required by law to get W-2s out to employees by Jan. 31, IRS spokesman Raphael Tulino said the agency would recognize a case that was an honest error. If workers need the information immediately, he said they should contact their employer. If employees don't have their W-2s by Feb. 15, they can contact the IRS for help in getting the information at (800) 829-1040.

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