Harkin Seeks Halt Of Online Social Security ID Sales 02/17/00

Harkin Seeks Halt Of Online Social Security ID Sales 02/17/00 – Government Activity

Brian Krebs

WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A., 2000 FEB 17 (NB) — The Internet is increasingly being used to facilitate the unauthorized sale of Social Security numbers to third parties, and an investigation into the matter by the Social Security Administration (SSA) should be launched immediately, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Wednesday.

In a letter to SSA Inspector General James G. Huse Jr., Harkin asked the SSA to determine the extent to which sales of Social Security numbers occur on the Internet without the knowledge of the number holder.

“In the age of the Internet, endless amounts of data and personal information, including Social Security numbers, are now readily available at our fingertips,” Harkin said. “While this increased access has many benefits, it also poses increased challenges to maintaining personal privacy.”

Harkin suggested the investigation should look to recently closed cases of Social Security card or number misuse, to determine how those numbers were obtained, as well as the risks to personal privacy and the incidence of identity theft tied to illegal traffic in those identification numbers.

Richard Rohde, the SSA’s congressional liaison to the Inspector General, said the problem was of great concern to the IG’s office, and that the SSA would welcome any legislative action on what he called one of the most pressing issues facing the administration.

“I can tell you that putting a stop to identity theft is one of the highest priorities of the inspector general, and we will certainly be looking for legislative remedies to help in this area,” Rohde said.

Rohde said part of the problem stems from the fact that Social Security numbers were never meant to be used as widely as they are today. In fact, it wasn’t until last year when Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz, passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, that Congress for the first time identified the Social Security number as a means of identification.

“Those numbers were never intended to be a national identification number, and certainly weren’t intended to be used on every public document out there,” Rohde said. “Nowadays it’s almost become the de facto national identifier.”

Rohde said the SSA has been working with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to establish a database for tracking perpetrators of and cases involving identity fraud, which he said the FTC now has up and running.

FTC officials were not immediately available for comment.

Reported by Newsbytes.com, http://www.newsbytes.com .

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