Government

The multiple faces of identity theft

We all know that it is important to protect your personal information, and we use a variety of methods to do that. But what happens when the information is used only to obtain employment for a person in the U.S. illegally? And what are the avenues open to a person when they discover that their SSN is being used by someone else?

During a routine check of her new 401(k) account, "Holli" discovered something that wasn't quite right. The name of another person was attached to her account. A person she didn't know.

It is something the experts call Social Security Number-only identity theft. And it is more popular than you might think.

On Friday I mentioned that Todd Davis of LifeLock, the guy that you hear spouting his SSN in radio and print advertisements in an effort to prove that his system is so secure, had been hacked 87 times in obvious efforts to scam. What is unknown and unknowable, really, is the number of times his SSN has been used simply for employment, aggravating the immigration issue.

Holli discovered that the person piggybacking on her SSN was a man named Paulino Rodriguez, a resident of Escondido, CA. He was using her SSN to work at a local Burger King.

From MSNBC:

Escondido is Ground Zero of the immigration debate. Just a few minutes north of the Mexican border, near San Diego, Escondido is home to thousands of Mexican immigrants who battle their way every day into the country and into gainful employment. Mexicans have been fighting in Escondido for a long time. Not far away, in 1846, U.S. forces were routed in the Battle of San Pasqual during the Mexican-American war, the worst American defeat of the conflict. Today, some say, Mexicans are again overwhelming American forces in a different kind of battle.

For the past three years, Paulino Rodriguez used Holli's Social Security number for the right to work at the Escondido Burger King. Recently, with his wife and four children, he took up residence in a middle-class subdivision on Espanas Glen Street in Escondido, a short block near Interstate 15.

Rodriguez, according U.S. immigration officials, is a Mexican national with no right to work in the United States. But thanks in part to Holli's Social Security number, he had found a decent life for his family in Escondido, which means "hidden" in Spanish. But that life was safe only if no one found out he was sharing Holli's identity.

Across America, perhaps millions of U.S. citizens are sharing their identities with undocumented workers who are virtually hiding behind Social Security numbers like Rodriguez. The data on the subject are incomplete, but each year nearly 10 million workers pay their taxes using the wrong Social Security number. While this can happen for a variety of reasons, most often it involves restaurant and farm workers, suggesting many of those 10 million workers are employees who are using someone else's SSN to satisfy federal employment requirements.

The really sad note to this case is that Holli had to not only do all the legwork -- easy because she had all of Paulino's information available to her -- but every so-called authority she contacted couldn't help her. Even when she told Rodriguez's employer, Reddy Restaurants, Inc., that he was working on her stolen SSN, they declined to get involved. She called the Social Security Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, her 401(k) administrator, and even an attorney only to hear the same thing, "We can't help you." Her attorney explained that as long as her credit hadn't been affected, it wasn't a criminal issue.

Fortunately, Holli is persistent and convinced her local police department to take a report and forward it to Escondido police. Then she followed up with Escondido police until the report was passed to the investigations department and Detective Damon Vander Vorst. Vander Vorst arrested Rodriguez on May 13 on charges of identity theft and falsifying government documents.

Rodriguez is currently at Vista Detention Facility awaiting disposition of the criminal charges. Meanwhile the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency has taken an interest in him and placed a "hold" on him. That means that he is "subject to deportation" according to an ICE spokesperson.

From MSNBC:

Immigrant imposters usually just provide a Social Security card to their employer on their first day of work to fulfill what's known as the "I-9" requirement. Since new employment rules took effect in 1983, U.S. workers must supply documentation to prove they are eligible to work; nearly always, a Social Security number is used. While employers can call the Social Security Administration to perform limited verification of the information, that's seldom done. So it's possible -- in fact common -- that employees' names and numbers don't match. When that happens, no one gets credit for the taxes paid by the worker. The money simply ends up in the U.S. Treasury. Since 1983, more than $500 billion in uncredited Social Security wages have been earned by so-called "no match" employees like Rodriguez. That hidden financial benefit for the government is one reason, Holli suspects, that agencies don't act more quickly on reports of SSN-only identity theft.

San Diego-based immigration rights advocate Lilia Velasquez sees similar cases in her practice all the time. Imposters run the spectrum from hardened criminals who ultimately take out loans in the victim's name to well-intentioned Mexicans who are simply doing what they need to do to get a job and feed their families. "It's not that these people intentionally and maliciously stole someone's name and identity. ... They may feel that they are using the number out of sheer need," she said.

But victims like Holli should do what they need to do to protect their identities, Velasquez said. "That's a situation which needs to be investigated until the issue is resolved."

While no one seems to be able to do anything in cases of SSN-only identity theft, there is a clear indication that perhaps some rethinking of the laws may be in order. Three years ago a Chicago woman discovered that 37 people had used her SSN to obtain employment. But the use of the SSN doesn't show up on credit reports so it won't show up in credit monitoring. And since wages earned by the imposter aren't credited to the victim, it won't show up on an annual Social Security statement. The only way to discover the misuse is through chance.

What things do you do to safeguard your information? What do you teach your end users to do?

18 comments
mrmiata7
mrmiata7

The term is ILLEGAL ALIENS NOT undocumented workers. What have we come to when open borders advocates as MSNBC and Vasquez justify the theft of innocent Americans identities by espousing the usual crap of "poor Mexicans not intentionally stealing the numbers but using them out of sheer need" which is pure b.s. as illegal aliens are knowingly buying and using those numbers which is a felony while illegally in this country to illegally work and obtain government benefits ruining the lives of many Americans as a lady who lost her house, a senior citizen denied social security when he retired, another senior citizen denied medicare, an American whose job was outsourced but was denied unemployment insurance, another lady who was charged with a felony committed by one of 200 illegal aliens using her ssn and the IRS tried to bill her for 1.5 million dollars in back taxes even though she hadn't worked in 10 years. Another elderly widow was denied social security when her husband died because 39 illegal aliens in the Denver area used her number and now she is forced to beg for money from relatives. I am so sick and tired of open borders anarchist groups as LaRaza who think it is perfectly permissible for those who violated our immigration laws and sovereignty to steal our identities while this worthless excuse of a corrupt and incompetent government continues to sit on it's brains and allows and encourages this. For you Obama, Clinton and McCain supporters this will get a lot worse as all three stooges called candidates will halt all immigration raids where illegal aliens are caught using stolen social security numbers. All three supported S-2611 and it's later iteration S-1348 (the illegal alien amnesty bill) with one of it's more odious provisions which would have allowed illegal aliens to collect social security and other benefits using stolen social security numbers and fraudulent identity documents. During the manager's rules debates Senator Ensign proposed an amendment which have prohibited illegal aliens from using stolen numbers and would have labeled their use a felony for which U.S. citizens are spending time in prison. All three candidates voted against this amendment in effect condoning and rewarding identity theft by illegal aliens. This in essence would have told the rest of the world who desires to come to this country if they are able to evade/elude our vastly overworked, undermanned and under resourced border patrol and steal someone's identity they too will be rewarded with legalization, citizenship and unfettered access to the treasury. People need to wake up from their Survivor and American Idol induced stupors and see what these frauds of candidates really have in store for the American people before it is too late and we lose our republic.

HoagieBP
HoagieBP

My favorite quote in all this....from the "immigrant rights activist....er, advocate, Lilia Velasquez, ???It???s not that these people intentionally and maliciously stole someone???s name and identity." How do you "unintentionally" steal someone's identity?!? Of course it's intentional.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

I enjoy being in a position of having a terrible credit rating. I own my own home that has beed paid for for 15 years. In '91 I decided that along with making the last loan payment on my home loan that I would also eliminate any other debts and credit cards. I've had no credit cards since '94 and enjoy being able to attend baseball, football and other sporting events, collecting free gifts just for applying for some banks credit cards and receiving a letter two weeks later stating that my credit rating would not allow them to issue me a card.. Too bad. I have had no one attempt to steal my identity using my SSN as it would result in a refusal by any credit operation. I have an excellent pension and still work full time to allow me to make regular deposits to an ongoing 401K account. I will continue to work as long as my health allows and do numerous jobs for barter shares to allow me to purchase or trade my services for new hardware and services for the things I need beyond regular expenses. I might invite an immigrant to use my SSN and to make additional deposits to my account but that has not happened nor do I think it will because of the total lack of acceptable rating for any loan agency to be willing to issue any credit.

Fregeus
Fregeus

Its the same with the US and Canada. The gouverments need to find a safer, more reliable way to manage Social security numbers and identities associated with them. That number gives access to so much, it needs to be have its security strengthen. Individuals need to do their part too. You should have a way to check all that is associated with your SSN, where used, who asked questions and why. TCB

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

[i]And since wages earned by the imposter aren???t credited to the victim, it won???t show up on an annual Social Security statement.[/i] ... aren't being credited due to an unreported name change or even a typo?

Tig2
Tig2

We all know that it is important to safeguard certain information. If you're like me, you keep a close eye on your credit report and banking statements. You probably read, and possibly keep on file, your Social Security statements. You use all the technology available to keep your information out of the wrong hands. You're safe. But are you? How do you know that there isn't someone out there using your SSN for employment purposes only? Would you see that as being unimportant? Or would you want the person doing it to at least be investigated? Years ago, I discovered that I had been working for nearly a year on the wrong SSN. I was off by a single digit. It was only the fact that someone in HR had had the experience of having to clean up a similar mess that got her to ask us to provide her with an actual check of our social security cards for those of us that didn't use the card for the I9 form (I use my passport). When I got the notification to do the physical check, the first thing that ran through my head was that I KNEW my number- I had been using it all my life. Then I pulled out the card and looked. Boy was MY face red! I had mis-remembered the number and had likely done so for years. It was a mess to clean up but I finally did so. Of course, the nice lady in HR never let me live it down. But that is a very good example of why there needs to be some better visibility to how and who is using your SSN. In that case, it was an honest mistake that anyone could make. But better visibility would also let you know when it isn't an honest mistake too. We say that we want a solution to the immigration issue. Wouldn't this be a place to start?

alex.a
alex.a

Social Security cards used to be printed wtih the legend: "For tax purposes only. Not for identification." Because so many people used them for identification, the legend was done away with. The problem could be mitigated by simply going back to the principle of not accepting Social Security cards for identification purposes. I was the victim of identity theft a few years ago. Fortunately I caught it in time and did not lose any money. However, the Social Security Adminstration was absolutely uninterested in the matter. Their response was something like: "We do not involve ourselves in identity theft issues. You must file a report with the Interstate Commerce Commission, not with us. No, you can't get a new Social Security number." An absolute disgrace! Maybe our next government will be more sympathetic to the problems of its citizens rather than to getting as much oil out of the Middle East as they can and imposing "democracy" on countries who don't want it.

Tig2
Tig2

This is a blind spot for many of us. While I protect the number, I never considered that it might be used fraudulently for employment purposes only. And from what I read, there is almost no recourse if that is the case. The system needs to be overhauled. But the people who will need to have a seat at the planning table need to be the privacy and security gurus and it is not likely that they will be invited to the discussion.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

She is a 35 year old white woman. One day a 52 year old black woman walked into BOA and requested an ATM card and opened a line of credit. She then went about purchasing items all over the town in Virgina. My sister reported it to the bank and they gave all her money back and canceled the card. The lady then moved on to GA and did the same thing again until BOA again canceled the card and gave her back her money. Then it happened again in FL. All this time, my SIL had reported it to the local police of each town that it happened in, to the FBI, to BOA multiple times, and to the local police. No one would even file a report. Even though BOA had flagged her account as fraudulent, the lady was still able to get other cards. Funny thing was my SIL was the only one having trouble accessing her accounts. The police and bank kept saying, "This is what happens when your purse is stolen." she never had her purse stolen. the only connection we could come up with was that the town that all this started happens to be where the main office is for a company she worked at. Even after telling the police in the town about the possible connection, they still refused to look into it. She finally closed all of her accounts and put everything in some bank in Illinois. they were the only bank that she could find that had a policy that included investigating the theft. Darn speeling

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

did you ever find out who's SSN you were actually using?

maecuff
maecuff

It's your, not you're.

ganyssa
ganyssa

I argued with an extremely irate video-store manager who nearly refused to let me rent videos from his store. Why? Because I refused to give him my social security number. Apparently it was policy to use social security number as a second ID, and no one had ever refused to give it up before. I won, but he did not wait until I left the store to call me names behind my back.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Can't you both go home and take it out on your respective spouses??? Oh wait a minute.....that wouldn't help. James

mojodelirium
mojodelirium

for shame. You've cast aspersions upon my character. You've indicated I'm nothing more than a slithering reptile. What, oh what, shall I do? Have I been relegated to the techrepublic shadows? Need I fear your imaginary shovel? Nah.

maecuff
maecuff

You changed it and you know you did. I'm not at all confused. You're just a snake. :)

mojodelirium
mojodelirium

confused, but I, nonetheless, proclaim my undying love (and servitude) for you.

bjennings59
bjennings59

There are very, very few business and government entities that have a right to demand your SSN. You cannot be denied services if you legitimately refuse to divulge your SSN. I absolutely refuse to give mine out to any agency or business that has no legal right to request it. I stand my ground and point out the law when they try to persist. We should all learn the rules and laws on this and refuse to give it to businesses that have no right to know.

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