The Social Security Privacy and Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2004
When looking at any policy or measure five questions need to be asked.
1. What problem is the policy or measure trying to solve?
2. How can it fail in practice?
3. Given the failure modes, how well does it solve the problem?
4. What are the costs, both financial and social, associated with it, and flowing from its unintended consequences?
5. Given the effectiveness and costs, is the policy or measure worth it?
Failing to look at the unintended consequences often leads to increased problems in unanticipated areas, which may far-outweigh any benefits brought by the legislation.
HR 2971 (introduced in the Senate as S 2801), the Social Security Privacy and Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2004, which recently passed the Ways and Means committee, is a good case in point. Identity theft is a serious problem, and nobody could object to legislation that cuts back on identity theft, any more than they could object to the Protection of Soft and Cuddly Bunnies Act.
On the other hand, imagine you are an abandoned wife who needs to collect child support from a deadbeat dad. Or that your life savings have been stolen in a clever fraud. Or that your wealthy husband has just run off with another woman, and insists that he is broke and has no property to split with you.
If you fall into any of these categories, HR 2971 goes a very long way to guarantee that you will never see the money owed you. The reason for this is that neither the police nor the state nor the federal government will drop what they are doing to locate the assets for you. Instead, your attorney will hire a private investigator.
Private investigators do a good job of hidden assets: The LUBRINCO Group, for example, is involved in the search for roughly $600 million dollars a year, largely in large frauds and high-profile divorces. But one of
the tools we use is the social security number. Of 2000 John Q. Publics, which one has the same social security number as Mrs. Public’s ex? What is the social security number of the fraudster, and what accounts and properties can we find associated with someone of that name who has that social security number? Without access to the information in credit header and other locator information, which will be denied to licensed private investigators under sections 107 and 108, investigations will become either impossible or cost-prohibitive.
For the very rich the law will have little effect: They will either have the clout to get law enforcement to take action, or will be able to afford to spend large amounts to have us get the information they need.
For those in the middle class or below, concealed assets that might readily have been located will now never be seen, as their location will become un- affordable for the normal person.
For most American citizens, the penalties will far outweigh the risks of identity theft. We encourage you to call or write your senators and congressmen to suggest that sections 107 and 108 be changed to better protect the public. Otherwise, the Social Security Privacy and Identity Theft Prevention Act of 2004 should be renamed the Deadbeat-Dad and Fraudster Protection act of 2004….