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December 16, 2002
DON'T BE A VICTIM OF
By Debra Bowen, California State
SACRAMENTO - Preventing
identity theft by requiring government agencies - including public
colleges and universities - to stop using Social Security numbers
as public identifiers is the goal of SI3 25 by Senator Debra Bowen
(D-Redondo Beach), which was introduced at the State Capitol.
"Identity theft is the fastest-growing
white collar crime in the country and a Social Security number
is the pass key criminals need to unlock a person's entire financial
Posting grades by Social Security number
and forcing people to carry their SSN around on their student
ID card is about as safe as putting them up on the scoreboard
during the Rose Bowl game," said Bowen.
The Internet has made it faster and easier
than ever to do business and buy things online with just a credit
card number and the click of a mouse.
Unfortunately, that same convenience
makes it painfully easy for criminals to bide behind a computer
and assume your identity to rob you blind." SR 25 expands California's
landmark identity theft prevention law (SB 168 (Bowes) of 2001),
which prevents private sector businesses from using Social Security
numbers as public identifiers and gives Californians the right
to shut off, or "freeze,'' access to their credit reports.
SB 25 extends those Social Security number
restrictions to all government agencies, including public colleges
and universities. Under SB 25, public entities will have to ensure
that Social Security number don't get posted or displayed, printed
on lofts sent in the mail, or used on identification cards.
The bill also requires banks and retailers
to honor security alerts people place on their credit reports
when they're worried about identity theft. SB 25 requires any
business that pulls a credit report and sees it's been red flagged
with an alert to contact the customer at the phone number on the
alert before approving new loans and credit in their name.
"If you're afraid of having your home
broken into, you look the doors and get an alarm system, you don't
leave the key in the lock and post directions to your house on
the Internet," continued Bowen.
"Requiring people to use their Social
Security number as their identification number forces them to
wave the red flag in front of a bull and hope it doesn't charge.
Eliminating identity theft isn't easy, but we can reduce the odds
that people will get ripped off by taking Social Security numbers
and other `red flag' personal information out of general circulation."
A recent national survey of college students
conducted by Impulse Research showed: basis and about one. third
of them throw out the offers without destroying than. Thirty percent
of students rarely, if ever, reconcile their credit card and checking
account balances. Forty eight percent of teachers still post their
grades by Social Security number.
In November, Riverside County authorities
arrested a Rialto man suspected of stealing the names and Social
Security numbers of some 150 college students, mostly from UC
Riverside, and using that information to get credit cards and
run up more than $200,000 in charges in the students' names.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and
the Identity Theft Resource Center, both based in San Diego, estimate
at least 700,000 people a year become victims of identity theft.
Identity thefts reported to the Federal
Trade Commission's ID theft hotline skyrocketed from 88,000 complaints
in 2001 to 117,139 complaints in 2002.
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