Another good reason to secure the border

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Merlin1047, Jan 27, 2005.

  1. Merlin1047

    Merlin1047 Senior Member

    Mar 28, 2004
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    It is small wonder that those who slithered illegally into the country would have no more respect for law after they get here. Seems that we have a wave of identity theft being perpetrated by illegals.

    If you think Social Security is in a mess now - wait until some ten to fifteen million illegals start collecting - using the SS numbers of legitimate recipients.

    And STILL nobody gives a damn. George Bush continues to waffle and tap dance and refuses to act. Just exactly what will it take to wake him up?


    The secret list of ID theft victims
    Consumers could be warned, but U.S government isn't talkingBy Bob Sullivan
    Technology correspondent
    Updated: 2:38 p.m. ET Jan. 27, 2005

    Linda Trevino, who lives in a Chicago suburb, applied for a job last year at a local Target department store, and was denied. The reason? She already worked there -- or rather, her Social Security number already worked there.

    Follow-up investigation revealed the same Social Security number had been used to obtain work at 37 other employers, mostly by illegal immigrants trying to satisfy government requirements to get a job.

    Trevino is hardly alone. research and government reports suggest hundreds of thousands of American citizens are in the same spot -- unknowingly lending their identity to illegal immigrants so they can work. And while several government agencies and private corporations sometimes know whose Social Security numbers are being ripped off, they won't notify the victims. That is, until they come after the victims for back taxes or unpaid loans owed by the imposter.

    It's a thorny problem that cuts to the heart of America's undocumented worker issue. Immigration opponents say it's another reason to shut the borders tight; immigrant rights groups point out that identity theft is an inevitable outcome of unfair labor laws that push foreign visitors deeper into the shadows.

    ‘People need to wake up to this problem. They are destroying people’s credit, Social Security benefits, and everything else.’— Richard Hamp
    assistant attorney general for state of Utah

    Either way, immigrant imposters with the least nefarious of intentions -- simply a desire to work -- often unknowingly victimize the rightful Social Security number holders. The problem is compounded by how often ripped-off numbers are used. James Lee, chief marketing officer for private data collection firm ChoicePoint, said the average victim of immigrant-based identity theft sees their Social Security number shared about 30 times.

    "The numbers get passed around a family, and around neighborhoods," he said.

    "People need to wake up to this problem," said Richard Hamp, an assistant attorney general for the state of Utah who has prosecuted several cases involving stolen IDs and illegal immigrants. "They are destroying people's credit, Social Security benefits, and everything else. This problem has been ignored by the federal government, and it's enormous."

    But could Trevino, and all the other victims, be warned by the government? After all, several agencies and corporations found her when they wanted her money. Until then, not a single one had bothered to warn her that someone else was using her Social Security number.

    Everyone benefits -- except the victim

    Melody Millet's husband Steve was the victim of immigrant identity theft. None of the agencies involved are trying to tackle the problem because they all benefit from it, as does corporate America, she said. The IRS and Social Security collect extra taxes, lenders sell more loans and employers get inexpensive workers. Fixing the problem and telling all the victimized consumers would upset the delicate apple cart that is America's immigration policy, she said.

    "The government is forcing people to share identities because they want to provide cheap labor to corporate America," Melody Millet said.

    An undocumented immigrant worker managed to use Steve Millet's Social Security number for more than 10 years before the incident was discovered. Millet said the imposter managed to obtain a dozen credit cards, buy a car, and even a house using the stolen number and his own name. All the while, that imposter paid taxes, paid into Social Security, and took out loans using the stolen Social Security Number. All of those agencies had a record of the abused SSN; none bothered to tell Steve Millet.

    "You can't find out except by accident," Melody Millet said. "They are not required to notify us. No one is required to notify you. The way it sits now, our lives were ruined. We will never have again a normal financial life."

    $420 billion in accounting limbo
    Quantifying the problem of immigrant imposters is a challenge; neither the IRS nor the Social Security Administration has tried. But there are some solid hints suggesting hundreds of thousands of people are currently at risk, right now lending their identity to an undocumented worker.

    With every paycheck, U.S. workers pay FICA taxes, destined for Social Security funds. But each year, millions of payments are made to the agency with mismatched names and numbers. The Social Security Administration has no idea who deserves credit for the taxes paid by those wage earnings -- so no one gets it. The amount of uncredited Social Security wages is now an enormous $420 billion, an amount that sits in what's called the Earnings Suspense File, an accounting limbo.

    During 2002, the year with the most recent figures available, 9 million people paid taxes with mismatched names and Social Security Numbers. Some were women who had failed to notify the agency that their name changed after marriage. Some were the result of typographical errors.

    But most -- between 50 and 80 percent depending on whom you talk to -- represent illegal immigrants using a stolen or manufactured Social Security number at the workplace.

    The amount of money headed for the Earnings Suspense File began to skyrocket after 1986, when a new federal law required workers to produce Social Security cards to get employment.

    In 2001, Social Security reports indicated 35 percent of the wages in the fund were earned by workers in California. In 2002, about 46 percent of the wages that ended up in the fund come from immigrant-heavy industries like agriculture, restaurants and other services, according to Social Security's Office of Inspector General. Both facts suggest to analysts that much of the fund is the result of payments made by undocumented immigrant workers.

    What's unclear is how many of those millions of payments made by undocumented workers are made using someone else's Social Security numbers. Audits show that many are made with manufactured numbers, such as 000-00-0000. But people familiar with the data say the list would point to hundreds of thousands of identity theft victims.

    ‘There are strict limitations on disclosure. Can someone see if anyone else has reported earnings under their SSN? The answer would be no.’— Mark Lassiter spokesman, Social Security Administration

    Still, James Huse Jr., former inspector general of the Social Security Administration, said it is unlikely the agency will ever inform potential victims.

    “(The list) would be a terrific source of leads for the identity remediation effort, but there are so many other compelling workloads in front of (SSA) I don't know what can they do with that today," he said. "Also, the politics of immigration get involved in this.”

    A spokesman for the Social Security Administration said the agency simply couldn't disclose the information to consumers because doing so would run afoul of federal law.

    "That information is considered to be tax return information, and it's governed under the Internal Revenue code," said Social Security's Mark Lassiter. "There are strict limitations on disclosure. Can someone see if anyone else has reported earnings under their Social Security number? The answer would be no."

    The IRS also receives payments from mismatched names and numbers, and has access to the same no-match list created by Social Security. But according to IRS spokesman Anthony Burke, the agency doesn't check for number-name mismatches until it processes tax returns. And it does not have a mechanism for informing the rightful Social Security number holder that someone else has filed a return using that number.

    When tax returns are filed with wrong Social Security numbers -- some 500,000 were filed last year -- the agency simply notifies the filer in writing. The rightful number holder isn't told, because there is no way to know why the wrong number was used, Burke said.

    'Total purgatory' for taxpayers
    Frustration can mount for victims of this kind of fraud. Eventually, the government agencies involved do catch up with the legitimate consumers; but often, not until they are looking for money. Victims can have trouble getting disability or unemployment benefits, Utah's Hamp said.

    Others find the Internal Revenue Service on their backs, looking for payment of back taxes for wages earned by their imposters. Some see refunds held up by the confusion; others see their wages garnished.

    Trevino found herself in a financial nightmare. All those imitators made a mess out of her work history, her Social Security benefits records and her credit report. She was haunted by bills and creditors. She received threatening letters from the IRS, asking her to pay taxes on money earned by her imposters. She was told to re-pay unemployment benefits she had received, after the government discovered she was "working" while drawing benefits.

    "At the time I'm thinking, 'I'm unemployed. I wish I could have at least one job, let alone all these different jobs,’" she said.

    "This is total purgatory that this puts U.S. citizen taxpayers into," said Marti Dinerstein, president of Immigration Matters, a public-policy analysis firm in New York. "It's a nightmare to get it stopped. And when they do get it stopped, it is only for that particular year. The whole mess could begin anew next tax season."

    But neither the Social Security Administration nor the IRS tells consumers that something unusual is happening with their Social Security numbers. It seems consumers are the last ones in on the joke.

    “This is the schizophrenia of the federal government," Huse, the former Social Security inspector general said. "The Homeland Security people are screaming about the accuracy of records, and you have the IRS taking money from wherever it comes."

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