SSA Putting Millions of Americans at Risk

By: Elizabeth Harrington
The Washington Free Beacon

The Social Security Administration puts millions of Americans at risk for identity theft by putting their full Social Security Numbers on letters sent in the mail.

The agency’s inspector general released an audit this week warning the government that by sending hundreds of millions of letters containing individual’s Social Security Numbers it puts them at risk for identity theft.

“According to [the Social Security Administration] SSA, in 2015, it mailed about 233 million notices that included individuals’ full SSN,” the inspector general said. “We recognize SSA’s efforts can never eliminate the potential that dishonest individuals may inappropriately acquire and misuse SSNs. However, our audit and investigative work have shown that the more SSNs are unnecessarily used, the higher the probability that they could be used inappropriately.”

“The security of beneficiaries’ [Personally Identifiable Information] PII should be foremost, and as a Federal agency and public servant, we believe SSA should be in the forefront of establishing policy and practice by limiting SSN use and disclosure,” the audit said.

Sixty-six percent of the 352 million notices the agency sent out last year contained Americans’ full Social Security Numbers, and the government said it has no idea how many never made it to the correct address.“While it is unknown how many of the intended addressees received these notices, our audit work has shown that the addresses in SSA’s records can be inaccurate,” the inspector general said
“We asked SSA whether it maintained any estimates on the number of mailings that were returned as undeliverable. SSA stated that it did not have any Agency-level number on undeliverable mail,” they said. “SSA could not provide us an estimate of the number of notices with SSNs it mails annually that do not reach the intended recipients and are not returned to SSA.”

The inspector general warned that notices sent to the wrong address can increase identify theft, as it can give strangers access to vital personal information. “Notices intercepted by unintended recipients could provide SSA beneficiaries’ names, addresses, and SSNs to individuals other than the numberholders,” they said.

Auditors said they do not currently have documented proof of identity theft that has occurred as a result of agency letters going to the wrong address, though the agency acknowledged “there is a risk of identity theft anytime it sends correspondence that contains PII.”

The inspector general said identity theft is “one of the fastest-growing crimes” in the country.”

“With a stolen SSN, identity thieves can commit any number of financial crimes in the victim’s name or steal money from the victim,” the audit said. “If the victim is a senior citizen, the thief could even target their Social Security benefits.”

“SSA acknowledges that identity thieves may obtain another’s personal information by stealing their mail or rummaging through their trash,” the inspector general concluded. “It is, therefore, troubling that SSA continues including the full SSN on the majority of its mailings.”

Man charged with identity theft has history of breaking and entering

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

SALISBURY — A man who was charged in April with stealing items from a house under construction has now been charged with identity theft.

Kevin Shawn Hurley, 28, of the 200 block of Bee Lake Drive, was arrested May 25 during a traffic stop at Providence Church Road and Poole Road by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office for a variety of charges.

Charged again

Kevin Shawn Hurley

Hurley was charged with possession and use of a North Carolina driver’s license in the name of Joshua Hurst for the purpose of getting pseudoephedrine from area pharmacies.

He was also charged with trafficking in stolen identities for transferring Kenneth Boone Jr. the driver’s license for Hurst, with the intent to assist them in getting pseudoephedrine from area pharmacies.

Pseudoephedrine is a primary component in making methamphetamine. People buying pseudoephedrine are required to show identification during such purchases. Due to state laws regulating the frequency of buying pseudoephedrine, people use stolen identities to disguise their purchases.

When the Sheriff’s Office issued arrest warrants on Hurley on May 17, Hurley avoided capture for multiple days. On May 24, with the Sheriff’s Office in pursuit, Hurley broke into a residence in the 300 block of Bee Lake Drive to avoid apprehension.

A homeowner discovered Hurley inside and Hurley then fled the residence. For this event, Hurley was charged with breaking and entering and possession of drug paraphernalia. Hurley left behind syringes, spoons and smoking pipes at the location.

At the time of Hurley’s arrest in the traffic stop he was found in possession of a small amount of cocaine and charged with felony possession of cocaine.

Bond was set at $52,500 on these initial charges.

On May 26, Hurley was charged with two counts of failure to appear/comply and given an additional $18,000 bond.

Hurley was convicted of felony breaking and entering in Stanly County in 2007 and in Rowan County in 2013, and was charged again in October 2015 with larceny. In March, he was charged with felony breaking and entering. In April, he and Shannon Lisbeth Herlocker were charged with breaking and entering a house under construction and taking appliances.

– See more at: http://www.salisburypost.com/2016/05/31/man-charged-with-identity-theft-has-history-of-breaking-and-entering/#sthash.CHS79OO3.dpuf

How Being an Identity Theft VICTIM Could Land You in Jail

When ordinary people become victims of identity theft, the legal repercussions can be enormous. To make matters worse, some victims not only have to deal with financial fraud but also face the risk of being jailed for crimes they didn’t commit.

Identity thieves may perpetrate crimes while masking their true identities with the names of their victims, which may result in the wrong person becoming imprisoned. South Florida resident Erie Salgado has been worried about being arrested ever since his identity was taken a decade ago in Puerto Rico, ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando reported.

Since then, Salgado has been suspected of being a Massachusetts-based cocaine dealer and also went to jail for the identity mix-up last fall. After Salgado spent days trying to convince law enforce authorities they had the wrong guy before he was released from jail, Sheriff Wayne Ivey gave Salgado an apology. Ivey said that the phenomena of identity theft victims spending time in jail for crimes caused by someone else is occurring more frequently.

In 2013, 13.1 million Americans became victims of identity theft, according to a recent Javelin report.

Financial, Legal Impacts

After Salgado’s identity theft incident, his wife, Betsy, said the criminal actions of the identity thief has resulted in her husband’s credit being damaged, which is a common effect of having unauthorized persons open new lines of credit without victims’ permission.

“Victims who had personal information used to open a new account or for other fraudulent purposes were more likely than victims of existing account fraud to experience financial, credit and relationship problems and severe emotional distress,” the Bureau of Justice Statistics said in a recent report.

When victims try to clear their names, they can also run into obstacles, which can result in financial costs to the victims that may take time to resolve. The BJS said more than half of identity theft victims were able to prevent problems from escalating in a day or less. But some victims who had their personal information stolen wait much longer than that. The BJS survey showed 29% of victims waited a month or more before they were able to resolve issues concerning their identity. For Salgado, his problem has continued for almost a decade (and counting).

In acknowledging the growing problem of identity theft and in an effort to help victims, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement created a program to reinforce victims’ claims of stolen identities if asked by police officers.

If you’re worried about becoming a victim of identity theft, you should monitor your bank and credit card accounts for any suspicious charges. Also, you can use a free tool like the Credit Report Card to monitor your credit scores every month. Any unexpected change in your credit score could signal identity theft and you should pull your credit reports to make sure you haven’t become a victim.

Credit.com
By Brett Montgomery
February 18, 2014 8:30 AM

New Mexico State Victim Resources:

Attorney General
Phone: (505) 827-6000
http://www.nmag.gov/

ID Theft Resolutions
Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization committed to (1) educating the general public, public officials, and legislators about the challenges presented by identity theft; (2) providing effective steps for how to prevent and respond; and (3) helping victims recover their identity and protect their credit. Services include free assistance to help victims, a free family prevention checkup, and a no-cost mini-workshop for small businesses and their employees.
PO Box 10243, Albuquerque, NM 87184-0243
Phone: (888) 484-9118
markmedley@idtheftresolutions.org

Agencies that offer assistance to IDT victims:

New Mexico Legal Aid
Program Phone: (505) 243-7871
Legal Assistance: (505) 243-7871   
http://www.lawhelp.org/nm/

Online Forms for Victims of Identity Theft

Security Freeze Law:

All consumers are permitted to place a security freeze on their credit reports. A security freeze prohibits, with certain specific exceptions, the credit reporting agency from releasing the consumer’s credit report or any information from it without the express authorization of the consumer. This prevents a credit file from being shared with potential creditors, blocking new accounts from being opened. To obtain a security freeze, credconsumers must send a credit reporting agency a written request by certified mail, provide proper identification and pay a fee, if applicable.

The credit reporting agencies are permitted to charge a fee of $10 for the placement of a security freeze, $5 for the release of a credit report to a specific person or for a specific period of time, and $5 to remove the freeze. However, there is no charge for victims of identity theft who provide a copy of a police report and for people 65 years of age or older.

Credit reporting agencies must place the freeze within three business days of receiving the request, and within five days, must provide the consumer with written confirmation of the freeze and a unique personal identification number, password or similar device to be used by the consumer when providing authorization for the release of the consumer’s credit report to a specific person or for a specific period of time or for permanent removal of the freeze. Requests for a temporary unlocking of the freeze must be completed within three business days. However, temporary unlocking must be completed within 15 minutes after the consumer’s request is received through an electronic contact method or by telephone, during normal business hours
Statute: §56-3A1 though 6: http://www.nmonesource.com/nmpublic/gateway.dll/?f=templates&fn=default.htm

 

 

Mandatory Police Report Law for Identity Theft Victims:

When a law enforcement officer interviews an alleged identity theft victim, the law enforcement officer shall make a written report of the information provided by the victim and by witnesses on appropriate forms provided by the attorney general. A copy of the police report shall be filed with the office of the attorney general.”
Chapter 29 NMSA 1978: http://www.nmonesource.com/nmpublic/gateway.dll/?f=templates&fn=default.htm

 

 

Identity Theft Passport Law:

A. The attorney general, in cooperation with the department of public safety and the motor vehicle division of the taxation and revenue department, shall issue an identity theft passport to a person who claims to be a victim of identity theft pursuant to Section 30-16-24.1 NMSA 1978 and who provides to the attorney general: (1) a certified copy of a court order obtained pursuant to Section 5 [31-26-16 NMSA 1978] of this 2009 act or a full set of fingerprints; (2) a driver’s license or other government-issued identification or record; and (3) other information as required by the attorney general.

B. An identity theft passport shall contain a picture of the person to whom it was issued and other information as the attorney general deems appropriate.

C. The attorney general may enter into a memorandum of understanding with the motor vehicle division of the taxation and revenue department for the development and issuance of a secure form of identity theft passport.  When an identity theft passport is issued, the motor vehicle division shall note on the person’s driver record that an identity theft passport has been issued.

D. An identify [identity] theft passport shall be accepted as evidence of identity by law enforcement officers and others who may challenge the person’s identity.

E. The attorney general shall maintain a database of identity theft victims who have reported to a law enforcement agency or have been issued an identity theft passport.  The attorney general may provide access to the database only to criminal justice agencies.  For purposes of identification and authentication, the attorney general may allow access to specific information about a person who has become a victim of identity theft to that person or to that person’s authorized representative.

F. The attorney general shall keep on file each application for an identity theft passport and each police report of identity theft submitted by a law enforcement agency.

G. The attorney general shall prepare and make available to local law enforcement agencies and to the general public an information packet that includes information on how to prevent and stop identity theft.

Section 31-26-15 – Identity theft passport; database.

 

Identity Theft Laws:

Theft of identity consists of willfully obtaining, recording, or transferring personal identifying information of another person without the authorization or consent of that person and with the intent to defraud that person or another. “Personal identifying information” is defined as information that alone or in conjunction with other information identifies a person, including the person’s name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, Social Security number, place of employment, maiden name of the person’s mother, demand deposit account number, checking or savings account number, credit card or debit card number, personal identification number, passwords or any other numbers or information that can be used to access a person’s financial resources. Theft of identity is a fourth class felony, punishable by eighteen months in jail and/or a fine up to $5,000.
Statute: §30-16-24.1: http://www.nmonesource.com/nmpublic/gateway.dll/?f=templates&fn=default.htm