Federal report identifies tactics to reduce identity theft

News by Dan Raywood

Identity theft can be reduced by cutting down on the use of Social Security numbers to authenticate users.

Identity theft can be reduced by cutting down on the use of Social Security numbers to authenticate users.

A report on social security numbers by the Federal Trade Commission has said that new ways must be found to protect corporate customers and employees. It has identified key tactics to reducing crime and identified the areas where people and employers can better protect themselves and their employees.


The report stated: “Although there is disagreement as to whether a thief can use the victim's name and social security number alone to steal her identity, it is generally understood at the least, the social security number facilitates identity theft, i.e., that it is a necessary, if not necessarily sufficient, element for many forms of this crime to occur.”


One key tactic that is used by identity thieves is to simply steal a number that has been issued, and assume the identity. The report claimed: “Some thieves fabricate social security numbers that either intentionally or coincidentally cor­respond to social security numbers that already have been issued or are about to be issued.


“The thieves then use social security numbers – in conjunction with other information unrelated to the individuals to whom the social security numbers actu­ally correspond – to create new identities.”


Five recommendations are made by the report to reduce identity theft: improve consumer authentication; restrict the public display and the transmission of social security numbers; establish national standards for data protection and breach notification; conduct outreach to businesses and consumers; and promote coordination and information sharing on use of social security numbers.


To be able to target identity fraud, the report recommends key tactics to counter social security number crime. It recommends that Congress considers prohibiting the display of social security numbers available on documents, identification cards, and other materials that could potentially fall in the hands of identity thieves. It also recommends that Congress sets national and breach notification standards because better-protected social security numbers are less likely to fall into the hands of criminals.


Finally, it seeks to better educate consumers on protecting their social security numbers and businesses on reducing their use of social security numbers, and recommends that the government pri­vate sector entities explore information sharing and other cooperative efforts to achieve these goals.


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