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U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.), Judd Gregg (R.-NH), and Patrick Leahy (D.-VT) introduced legislation Monday that aims to provide consumers with greater identity theft protections. The Social Security Number Misuse Prevention Act makes it harder for identity thieves to obtain Social Security numbers by restricting public access to the number.
While permitting legitimate business and government use of Social Security numbers, the legislation proposes to prohibits the sale or display of the numbers to the general public; removes the numbers from government checks and driver's licenses; and requires Social Security numbers to be taken off of public records published on the Internet.
According to a report recently released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last week, identity-theft complaints were the most common fraud complaint reported by American consumers last year, accounting for 43 percent of all complaints to the FTC. Nationwide, identity theft complaints almost doubled last year to more than 160,000, and losses as a result of identity theft grew to $343 million.
"The goal of this legislation is straightforward -- to get Social Security numbers out of the public domain so that identity thieves can't access the number," Feinstein said.
Last year, the bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee but never made it to a floor vote once it entangled in an unrelated amendment.
"Technology is advancing, but unfortunately, cyber-crime is advancing right along with it," Gregg said. "An enormous amount of information is tied to a person's Social Security number. If that number falls into the hands of the wrong people, a person's identity can be stolen right along with the money in their bank account. This legislation protects the right to privacy and protects against identity fraud."