Seems odd to me why a Florida senator would want to continue a system that exposes thousands of Floridians to identity theft. But Jack Latvala is sticking to Florida's turkey of a law like a cheap suit in the rain.
Come on, Senator. Florida is the only state in the nation that allows the distribution of Social Security numbers to third parties -- and all to find owners of unclaimed property. Have a look at Kenric Ward's Feb. 14 story.
SB 1208 and companion HB 7111 probably are the most consumer-friendly bills among all of the 2012 session's legislation. They would stop Social Security number handouts cold.
If Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, had ever been a victim of identity theft himself, he wouldn't be fighting SB 1208 now. He would, like Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, want to protect people's confidential information, and pull the plug on the ability of private investigators to tap into the state's Social Security database for $35 a month.
Trust me, I know what I'm talking about. I've had my identity stolen.
Perhaps Latvala has Social Security cards confused with credit cards. Big difference.
Lose your credit card and all you have to do is quick-cancel the old one, wait for the bank to issue you a new one and abracadabra, you're in the clear. But when your Social Security number has been compromised, it's compromised forever. The feds don't issue you a second number. You'll be monitoring that baby for the rest of your life.
You've got five things to worry about if a thief gets hold of your number.
- He can open new credit, sign up for utilities, get a mortgage or car loan in your name. Thats right. Identity thieves never pay on the accounts they open. They spend like drunken sailors until the unpaid accounts go into collections and creditors begin coming after the real you -- ask me how I know.
- A thief can use your name to get a job, then fail to pay taxes on earnings. But his employer reports the earnings to the IRS using the Social Security number on file. In many cases the legitimate tax refunds earned by identity theft victims are withheld to pay unpaid taxes on unreported income. If no refund was due, the victim will receive a bill for unpaid taxes from the IRS.
- Armed with your name and Social Security number, identity thieves are able to obtain identification documents like drivers licenses or passports. If they engage in other criminal activity and are caught, their bad behavior can go on your record. Oh, yes, and if this rap sheet is discovered, you could be arrested or fired from your job due to a criminal history you didnt create.
- With your Social Security number in his wallet, someone can obtain medical care in your name. This is scary, life-threatening stuff. Apart from skipping out on medical bills run up in your name, a thief can leave you with a completely incorrect medical record, a record with wrong information about blood type, drug allergies and procedures you've had done. You could be administered the wrong drugs or blood type.
- You could wind up having your wages garnished to pay someone elses alimony or child support or being penalized for his or her bankruptcy. A huge nightmare, this one. This is especially common in cases where the identity thief has stolen not only your Social Security number, but your name as well. If someone files bankruptcy in your name, your credit record could also be destroyed due to the negative impact of the filing. And you may lose credit that has been extended to you or be forced to pay higher interest rates.
It's disappointing to see Latvala, a Republican, doing the bidding of private investigators who may or may not be gathering Social Security numbers for the purpose for which the system was intended.
It's the Department of Financial Services that maintains the Social Security number database. Some 178 "locator" agencies have registered with DFS and pay the $35 a month to fish around for numbers. But only 58 of them have actually filed for unclaimed property. What are the other 120 agencies doing with access to those numbers?
Latvala has a compromise amendment that is no compromise at all. He proposes the state issue only partial Social Security numbers to private investigators. But there's available software out there to identify owners of Social Security numbers from the first five or the last four numbers. How would that close the door on identity and financial fraud?
Latvala was in meetings all day Tuesday and unavailable each time I phoned. I'm sorry about that, too. I had questions.
I think it's time for him to come clean and remind us why he's willing to keep thousands of Floridians at great risk.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com, or at (850) 727-0859.