Thursday, July 29, 2010
Utah children's social security numbers still being used by illegal immigrants
Salt Lake City (ABC 4 News) Do you know where your child's social security number is? You probably have his or her card tucked away at home, but their numbers may be showing up at work sites all over Utah.
While 9-year-old Brooklyn bounces on a trampoline in West Bountiful - someone is using her social security number at work in Draper and out in California. "Right now we know two for sure and maybe a third." That's what her step father Eli Burke tells us about Brooklyn's not so private social security number. And the problem isn't new. Brooklyn's family learned about this when they applied for state medical coverage, back when Brooklyn was four. "We start calling around to Social Security. We called the police, but they didn't do anything."
Five years later - people are still using her number and, still using a lot of other Utah children's numbers. "As of February, 1,265 Utah children, under the age of 12, are victims of somebody else misusing their number." That's according to Utah Assitant Attorney General Rich Hamp. And Hamp should know he is the man in charge of prosecuting these cases. "When I get the report in through IRI- we track it down and when we find the person at the end - we prosecute." And Hamp says most of the offenders are illegal immigrants using the numbers for work. "In virtually every case we have investigated, with the exception of one, it has come back to an illegal immigrant."
Hamp says while he has prosecuted hundreds of people - he can't really keep up because there are thousands of cases. In fact, if you look at a map on the attorney general's IRIS web site ( http://iris.utah.gov/iris/public/map.do )every purple marker is a social security i-d case. And remember, these are just the ones that have been reported. The state estimates around 20 thousand Utah children's numbers are being used. Some, like Ron Mortensen, a child identity expert, believe the number could be closer to 50,000. of the say up to 50 thousand have been used.
Hamp says it is just so much easier to use a child's number versus an adult's number. "Someone on a child's number is going to get away with years of misuse before anyone discovers it."
Utah is unique in that it does notify families when it finds an issue, most state do not do that. And the attorney general has a website to report stolen social security numbers. But the problem is so widespread and so hard to detect, that many experts believe without major change - like forcing employers to verify social security numbers before they hire anyone - there is no way to slow it down.
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