Study after study shows that identity theft is one of the most devastating crimes an American can experience.
That’s particularly true of Social Security theft, a growing threat to U.S. consumers in this, the digital age, where personal information is much as a commodity as ball bearings or Buicks.
According to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report, identity breaches are a huge problem in the U.S, with 32 percent of all identity theft involving Social Security numbers.
That’s a dangerous number. After all, you can share a name, a physical address – even a birthday, but your Social Security number is unique to you. Lose it, and the path is wide open to a host of 21st century consumer nightmares, such as destroyed credit, an avalanche of credit card and medical bills, harassment by debt collectors, health jeopardy, tax issues, no fly lists, loss of security clearance and even arrest for crimes you didn’t commit.
So with all the data pointing to Social Security theft as a major security threat, why doesn’t the state of Colorado agree?
It’s a fair question. The state’s highest court recently threw out a conviction against a man who used a stolen Social Security number to help get a car loan. The man, Felix Montes-Rodriguez, was originally convicted of criminal impersonation for using the stolen number at a Boulder, Colorado car dealership. Court records revealed that the dealership required a Social Security number as part of it’s due diligence on all credit checks.
Court records also show that Montes-Rodriguez provided a Social Security number that clearly was not his own. According to the court docket, Montes-Rodriguez “admitted to using the false Social Security number … he argued that he did not assume a false identity or capacity under the statute because he applied for the loan using his proper name, birth date, address and other identifying information.”
Besides the original conviction, a lower court of appeals affirmed that result.
The Colorado Supreme Court, by a 4-3 vote, didn’t see it that way. Admittedly, the decision to void the original conviction was a nuanced one (the minority opinion cited the majority’s proclivity to “slice and dice” the meaning of identity theft), but as far as the bigger picture is concerned, the Court got it wrong.
The majority’s point was this … Read More»