Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has signed on to legislation to protect Mainers from identity theft by allowing them to more closely guard their Social Security numbers.
"I had a constituent call recently who was enrolling in Medicare but was very concerned that her Social Security number would be printed on the identification card. The number one tip we tell people to prevent identity theft is to guard that number," said Pingree. "Yet, we put it right on the Medicare cards people have to carry with them wherever they go. That just doesn't make sense."
The Identity Protection Act would prohibit the government from using Social Security numbers as identification numbers for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program. The agencies would have to issue new identification numbers distinct from people's Social Security numbers.
The first tip the Federal Trade Commission offers to prevent identity theft is to guard your Social Security number closely. "Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary, and ask to use other types of identifiers," the agency says on its website.
On three separate occasions, the constituent who contacted Pingree's office, Diana of New Gloucester, had been notified by her bank and insurance company that a security breach had put her identity at risk. Even worse, her mother's mail had been stolen after she passed away and the information used to create fraudulent accounts, which the grieving family found out after being barraged with calls from creditors.
"Diana's story is terrible, but all too common--every year there are 9 million victims of identity theft in this country. She's right to point out that having to carry your Social Security number in your pocket is an easy way to become one. Too easy." Pingree said. "Protecting people from identity theft in today's world is a complicated problem, but I think this step is an important one."