Identity Theft: Are You Primed to Star In A Commercial?

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 24, 2004

I am sure that we have all seen the Citibank identity theft commercials in which the identity-theft victim talks in the thief’s voice.

While the ads might invoke a slight be responsible for a 30-second chuckle, identity theft is among the fastest growing crimes in America and is no laughing matter.

Last year, 214,905 Americans were the victims of identity theft.

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Alabama ranks 37th in the nation having had 1,823 victims in 2003.

Clearly this nationwide problem affects us close to home, and there is an urgent need to address this growing crime.

The 2004 regular session, which ended this week, took additional steps to further ensure the security and safety of the citizens of Alabama.

Rep. Steve Hurst, D-Munford, sponsored a bill that would prohibit any state department or agency from placing or revealing a person’s Social Security Number (SSN) on any document available for public inspection without the express consent of the person.

Having passed both the Alabama House and Senate, the act is awaiting the governor’s signature into law.

This initiative will not only increase personal security but it will also protect our citizens from possible stolen identity.

Originally created as a means to track workers’ earnings and eligibility for Social Security benefits, the distinguishing numbers were never meant to be used as an identifier, but have taken on that role because everyone has one.

Identity theft occurs when someone takes personal information, without permission, to commit theft and/or fraud.

It requires no direct contact or even communication between criminal and victim.

There are many forms of identity theft, for example, just last week I heard about a woman who had a collection agency phone her to ask why she had not paid her $7,000 credit card bill.

The woman was astonished.

Not only had she not run up such an enormous debt, she did not even have a credit card from that particular company.

Once she requested her credit reports, she discovered several more fraudulent claims – more charges on credit cards, and personal loans, including financing a rather expensive car.

All of this had been done without her knowledge and yet, it will take several years before she can clear her name, if she is ever able to.

Additional types of identity theft include, phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, government documents and benefits fraud, and employment related fraud.

Unfortunately, stories such as the one just mentioned are not uncommon and approximately 21% of Alabama’s victims reported experiencing more than one type of identity theft.

The uncertainties and inconsistencies in the current methods of personal information collection and storage leave Alabama citizens vulnerable and at serious risk of being harmed by illegal access and use of their personal information without ample safeguards in place.

We must assertively address these and all security issues to ensure the safety of all Alabamians.

Every effort must be made to combat identity theft.