CHICAGO (CBS) — A college savings program sponsored by the Illinois State Treasurer’s office has sent out more than 36,000 letters that had the recipient’s Social Security number on the outside of the envelope.

“I said, ‘This can’t be,'” John DeReu of Libertyville said after he picked up a mailing from Union Bank, the program manager of the Illinois State Treasurer’s Bright Directions college savings program.

The letter not only had DeReu’s name and address on the outside of the envelope, it had his full Social Security number.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

“This is an absolute violation of … the personal data and could compromise, potentially, the credit scores and all the financial data,” DeReu said.

Bridget Byron, director of college savings at the Illinois State Treasurer’s office, said “it is alarming.” She said Union Bank is paying for identity theft protection for all 36,196 people who were sent the mailing.

“This was very alarming and concerning. The protection of our account holders’ information is foremost,” Byron said.

Byron said Union Bank has assured the treasurer’s office the error is “low risk,” because the mailing was put through a high-speed mail sorter and only the postal carriers would have had access to the envelopes with the Social Security numbers on the outside.

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