Official Says Identify Theft Tied Into Terrorism Threat

VANESSA MALTIN, Palm Beach Post Washington Bureau DATE: June 16, 2004

Nearly 10 million people - 4.6 percent of the adult population - were victims of identity theft in 2002, according to a survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission. Combined, these cases amount to nearly $48 billion in losses to businesses, nearly $5 billion in losses to individuals, and close to 300 million hours spent by victims clearing their names. Federal officials are also concerned that terrorists may use stolen identities to assimilate into society.

Patrick O'Carroll Jr., acting inspector general of the Social Security Administration, told the House Social Security subcommittee Tuesday that terrorists could obtain Social Security numbers by purchasing them, creating them, stealing them, using the number of a deceased individual or obtaining them from the Social Security Administration using fake documents. As part of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces, O'Carroll said, the agency's New York field division investigated six men believed to have participated in an Al-Qaeda training camp and found that one of them had two Social Security cards. The panel's chairman, Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr., R-Fort Lauderdale, introduced a bipartisan bill last year that would restrict the sale, purchase and display of Social Security numbers to the general public. It would also greatly limit the use of Social Security numbers for identification purposes by public and private agencies. "(Social Security numbers) are widely used as personal identifiers, even though their original purpose was simply to track earnings for determining eligibility and benefit amounts under Social Security," Shaw said. But Brian McGuinness, former president of the Florida Association of Licensed Investigators, told the panel that restricting public access to Social Security numbers could interfere with helping crime victims. The bill prohibits the use of an individual's Social Security number for the purpose of locating that person - a provision that would have made locating a kidnapped child in West Palm Beach more difficult. The child's mother gave McGuinness her husband's birth date and Social Security number, and he was able to enter the number into a database and learn that the kidnapper had used a West Palm Beach address to apply for credit, McGuinness told the panel. vmaltin@coxnews.com Copyright (c) 2004 Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.

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