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Police could gain powers against ID theft with bill

Ben Godar

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

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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

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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.

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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

those.

Because police cannot verify an individual’s Social Security

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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

said.

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

said.

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.”


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