About a week or so ago, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff unveiled a cooperative program with TransUnion which allows parents to lock their children’s credit. Both should be congratulated for their effort. However, Shurtleff’s press conference can also lead parents down the primrose path and to a nasty surprise. Here’s the news report of the above article:
Before I get into this, as the saying goes: “never look a gift horse in the mouth”. I strongly encourage parents to go to the AG’s IRIS site and sign up your child/children for the “identity” protection.
Now, about that gift horse…I used quotes around identity because the program will not protect your child’s full identity. It will only protect their credit record, nothing more (noted in the video). There is much more to an identity besides credit. Identity includes medical, employment, earnings, and criminal histories. All those items are typically tied to a social security number. The program will not protect a child’s social security record from being corrupted by an identity thief. Additionally, only one credit bureau is involved in the program – without the other two, I’m not certain if even the credit record is safe.
The fact of the matter is that identity theft goes far beyond credit. Fugitives, illegal immigrants, deadbeat parents, addicts, and others use stolen identities to obtain work and medical care. Those alone can and do corrupt social security, earnings, and medical records. Once a child grows older, they may find themselves disqualified from means-based assistance or scholarships due to a corrupt earnings report (they “made” too much money to qualify). The earnings under their social security number may also have them getting calls from the IRS for failing to file taxes or failing to receive their tax refund. A corrupted medical identity can have life threatening consequences at any given time if an emergency occurs (this is even more significant for children with a chronic illness). Then, as they grow older they may even find themselves charged and hauled off for a crime they didn’t commit. Social security number theft is incredibly damaging.
Ironically, the program would not have helped Jennifer Andrushko prevent the theft of her son’s identity (his social security number was stolen by an illegal immigrant for employment not credit). From the linked article:
Andrushko’s son was only 3-years-old when she discovered the fraudulent activity on his Social Security number.
An undocumented worker had been using her son’s identity to gain employment. The fraud started five years before her son was even born.
It beats me why the AG used her case to highlight this program – it seems to create a false sense of security for those who enroll in the program. What was he thinking?
At the end of the report, they say the Social Security Admin has been asked to find a solution. One of the best protections for children’s identities is implementation of the E-Verify program (employers use the free, rapid response system to verify a prospective applicant’s identity). There is now a toothless (no penalty for non-compliance) Utah law requiring E-Verify. So far, there is nary a word from the Attorney General calling for enforcement measures and I don’t recall any statements in support of the measure from him. It just sounds like he wants to pass the buck to the SSA.
To add another bit of irony…here are two videos of the Attorney General’s real feelings regarding employment only identity theft. In the first, he demonstrates his shifting position on the issue by entirely disregarding employment related identity theft. In the second, he sits idly by as Chief Chris Burbank has a good laugh as known locations where identities are sold to illegal workers (be they illegal immigrants, fugitives, etc) are called out (stay classy, Burbank). Let’s also not forget that the Attorney General is a staunch HB116 supporter; the bill dismisses illegal immigrant identity theft (such as Andrushko’s son) and pushes the costs thereof onto taxpayers.
Moral of the story: get your kids in the program but don’t buy the hype – remain extra vigilant. Also consider calling your legislators and the Governor and ask them to support bills like HB300 and the E-Verify program.
UPDATE (2/14/12): The “Ask a Cop: How to spot a fake ID” KSL article apparently written by a police officer provides some excellent Utah examples of the types of identity theft (and the damage caused) which the above program can not prevent. I have also added a link to it in the text.