Kirk, Roskam: Secure Social Security Card Needed to Prevent Identity Theft and Protect Trust Fund
U.S. Representatives Mark Kirk and Peter Roskam announced legislation today requiring the Social Security Administration to develop secure Social Security cards to combat the rising problem of identity theft and immigration fraud. The representatives were joined by Waukegan Police Chief Bill Biang at a press conference in the Dirksen Federal Building.
"Since Social Security started in 1935, more than 450 million Social Security cards have been issued," Congressman Kirk said. "Over the years, we've had 50 card variations, but all have one common element - they are too easy to counterfeit. According to a 2005 Government Accountability Office report, employers reported the use of 1.4 million Social Security numbers that don't exist. Additionally, nearly 1.7 million numbers have been used by multiple individuals, some as many as 500 times or more. It's time we upgrade Social Security cards with photos and biometric data like a fingerprint to protect seniors from identity theft and prevent draining of Social Security trust funds."
"Identity theft is the number one consumer complaint in Illinois," said Roskam. "For years individual states have taken proactive steps to update their identification cards, while the federal government has done nothing. Our nation's families, especially seniors, have worked and saved to secure their future and need the reassurance that their financial nest egg is safe."
The Kirk-Roskam legislation would require the development of a tamperproof and wear-resistant Social Security card. Individuals older than 15 would be required to have a digitized photo on the card, as well as an encrypted, machine-readable electronic bar code with embedded biometric identifiers.
In 2006, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials made 1,272 arrests for identity and benefit fraud. While there is not central database for confiscated fraudulent Social Security card statistics, regional illegal document rings illustrate a systemic problem.
Last April, federal agents arrested 23 individuals and broke up an illegal document ring in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. Officials estimated that up to 100 fake Social Security cards were issued each day at the location. According to the Northern Illinois U.S. Attorney's Office, the enterprise netted $3 million per year for a violent Mexico-based crime syndicate. ICE broke up a similar ring in the same neighborhood in December 2005. Last October, Cook County Sheriff's detectives arrested two individuals for manufacturing hundreds of fake identification documents in Chicago's West Lawn neighborhood. Outside of the Chicago area, one ICE raid in Washington, DC, netted 880 fake Social Security cards.
Waukegan Police Chief Bill Biang discussed his department's efforts to combat illegal document rings in northern Illinois. Police raids discovered numerous crimes of identity theft, including criminals purchasing homes and cars with stolen Social Security numbers. For as little as $100 dollars, an individual in Waukegan can purchase a fake Social Security card.
"Many government agencies already use secure IDs, including the Department of Defense," said Congressman Kirk, an actively-drilling U.S. Navy Reserve intelligence officer. "An ID with a bar code embedded with biometric data, as well as a picture, will help prevent counterfeiting. We have the technology now - there is no excuse to use a document that anyone can forge at a Kinkos."
Individuals can report Social Security card fraud by calling the Social Security Administration Inspector General's hotline at 800-269-0271, or by visiting http://www.ssa.gov/oig/hotline/.