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updated 1/4/2007 7:35:56 PM ET 2007-01-05T00:35:56

The Social Security numbers of 171,000 Wisconsin taxpayers were printed on the labels of tax booklets to be mailed out, prompting state officials to warn of possible identity theft.

Wisconsin Department of Revenue officials first notified taxpayers and post offices of the misprint Friday night, after it heard from people who had received forms that day. State officials asked post offices to set aside any forms that hadn't been delivered, department spokeswoman Meredith Helgerson said.

By Wednesday afternoon, some 54,500 undelivered booklets had been retrieved from post offices in Portage, Madison and Oshkosh. The remainder of the mailings were delivered in the past few days, Helgerson said.

The state Department of Revenue on its Web site urged people to protect themselves against identity theft by contacting credit bureaus and asking for fraud alerts or other safeguards to keep new accounts from being opened in their names.

The labels were printed by a private company that received taxpayers' names, addresses and Social Security numbers from the state. Helgerson said the state has given the company the same information in the past, but the Social Security numbers were not printed on the labels.

"All those pieces of information are confidential, but the contractor has to use certain bits of confidential information to fulfill the contract," she said.

The booklets were to be used to file taxes for 2006, which are due April 16. Social Security numbers appeared on Wisconsin tax form mailing labels until codes replaced them in 1999.

The printing company, Ripon Community Printers, was trying to determine how the numbers ended up on the labels, president Andy Lyke said. Company officials also were considering reprinting labels for forms that were not delivered, he said.

"These days when people are more sensitive to having their information out there, it's a shame that we did that," Lyke said.

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