Legislation that would give police access to Social Security
information when investigating identity-theft crimes is moving to the
Assembly floor, and police say it would be a valuable aid in stopping
the fastest-growing crime they see.
The bill, written by Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D--Burbank), would
allow police limited access to DMV records to help prove an
individual was using a false or stolen Social Security number. The
Assembly Appropriations Committee passed it unani- mously, and
Frommer said he expects it to reach the floor in the next few weeks.
Officers would need a search warrant from a judge in order to
search the records, but Frommer said existing res- trictions, meant
to prevent stalking, were hampering police investigations.
“We want to protect people’s privacy, but we also want to allow
law enforcement to prosecute those who steal people’s identity and
ruin someone’s personal and financial records,” he said.
Frommer said he became concerned about identity theft after
learning of the rate at which it was skyrocketing in his district. In
Burbank, police said such crimes jumped by 63% in 2002, and
preliminary data from this year show the rate continues to increase.
Police said there are a number of obstacles when they investigate
identity theft, and the proposed legislation might ease some of
Because police cannot verify an individual’s Social Security
number, Burbank Det. Matt Ferguson said they often cannot prove a
criminal is in possession of someone else’s information.
“It’s a key indicator of identity theft, but we currently don’t
have access to Social Security Administration records,” Ferguson
While broader access to those records would make it easier to
confirm when an identity theft occurs, Ferguson said the bigger
problem is that the law does not make it illegal to possess another
person’s information with the intent to defraud.
He said it is not uncommon for officers to arrest someone in the
process of applying for a credit card with a false Social Security
number, and find they have dozens of people’s numbers with them. But
under current laws, they can only be prosecuted for the theft they
were caught in the process of committing.
“The law needs to be rewritten to make it unlawful to possess
another person’s identity information with the intent to use,” he
Even if the laws are rewritten, Sgt. Bruce Speirs said unless
credit companies improve their security measures, the explosion of
identity theft will continue.
“This is the crime wave that is coming upon us,” Speirs said. “The
credit-card companies and the banking industry have to do something,
because people are just being victimized constantly.”