While consumers are familiar with the crime of identity theft for the purpose of illegally purchasing goods or services with someone else’s credit, they may not be aware of an escalating problem in which the criminal uses the false identity to get a job.
“Typically citizens do not realize their identity has been stolen and used for the purpose of getting a job until they receive their W-2 or other income statement,” said John McLelland, crime prevention specialist, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Fallbrook Substation. “Everyone should review their W-2s carefully to make sure their income is accurately reported and that nothing is questionable on it.”
Citizens can request and review their Statement of Benefits from Social Security.
According to the Social Security Administration, identity theft of a Social Security number is a felony under both federal and state laws that can lead to fines and imprisonment for the perpetrator.
Criminals appear to be using other citizens’ identities to secure jobs for a variety of reasons. First, some are in the United States illegally and do not have Social Security numbers for employment.
Others have such poor backgrounds they cannot pass the screenings necessary to be accepted for employment with their own Social Security number. Yet others may attempt to defer their tax responsibility to others.
In addition to carefully reviewing income reports, McLelland recommends that citizens request their personal credit report every four months to check for the possibility of identity theft, especially during this troubled economy and increasing number of these crimes.
“There are three major credit bureaus and you can request a copy of your credit report from each of them once per year,” said McLelland. “By requesting one from a different one of them every four months, you can provide a checking system for yourself year-round. If you discover a problem, it is important to act quickly on it.”
Local Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore) announced last week that in order to fight identity theft he is introducing legislation (Assembly Bill 130) to increase the penalties on repeat identity theft offenders.
“Identity theft is a tremendous problem…and a crime that causes damage and destruction far beyond the dollar amount that is actually stolen,” Jeffries said. “Unfortunately, the penalties for identity theft continue to fall short of the seriousness of this crime, so criminals continue to traffic in stolen identities and credit cards with impunity. That is why I have introduced legislation at the request of the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office to increase the penalties for repeat identity theft offenders.”
Assemblyman Jeffries also said, “Some will complain that we can’t afford to put more criminals in prison, but the first duty of government is to protect its people, and we can’t afford to those who repeatedly victimize the innocent to go unpunished.”
To request a copy of your statement of benefits, call the Social Security Administration toll-free at (800) 772-1213. To file a complaint, visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov.
To reach the Identity Theft Hotline established by the Federal Trade Commission, call (877) 438-4338.
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