updated 1/4/2006 4:02:22 PM ET 2006-01-04T21:02:22

H&R Block Inc. mistakenly mailed out free copies of its tax return software that included the recipients’ Social Security numbers on the mailing label, a company spokeswoman acknowledged Wednesday.

The Kansas City-based company estimates less than 3 percent of the mailings included the numbers, though spokeswoman Denise Sposato declined for competitive reasons to say how many copies of the TaxCut software went out. The company began mailing letters to the recipients on Dec. 22 warning them about the mix-up and created a Web site for questions.

“While we firmly believe the risk is minimal, we viewed our primary responsibility was to communicate with the affected recipients to let them know it happened,” Sposato said, adding that the company hadn’t received any reports of identity theft tied to the mailings.

The Social Security numbers were embedded in a string of 47 numbers and letters printed above the mailing code. Because the numbers weren’t broken out and wouldn’t necessarily be recognizable to anyone other than the owner, Sposato said identity thieves were less likely to have exploited it. She said the company first noticed the problem when a recipient called to point it out.

“It’s definitely human error and we’ve reviewed the situation so it won’t happen again,” she said.

Sposato said H&R Block sent the promotional mailing to former customers and people whose names were taken from purchased lists. She said the company is legally required to hold on to customers’ tax information, including Social Security numbers, for three years.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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