House Committee Passes Social Security Number Protection Act

August 4, 2006

Washington, DC -- The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed legislation to protect Social Security numbers this week. This bipartisan bill, The Social Security Number Protection Act (H.R. 1078), would bring a halt to unregulated commerce in Social Security numbers, and would make it crime for a person to sell or purchase Social Security numbers in violation of rules put forth by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC would be given the power to restrict the sale of Social Security numbers, determine appropriate exemptions, and to enforce civil compliance with the bill’s restrictions. 

The bill, first introduced in 2000 by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), in response to a horrific case in which when a man named Liam Youens was stalking a 21-year old New Hampshire woman named Amy Boyer. Youens reportedly purchased Amy Boyer’s Social Security number from an Internet Web site for $45. Using this information, he was able to track her down, a process that he chillingly detailed on an Internet Web site that he named after his target. Finally, this demented stalker fatally shot Amy Boyer in front of the dental office where she worked, and then killed himself. 

“The terrible tragedy of Amy Boyer’s murder underscores the fact that while the Social Security number was originally used simply to collect Social Security taxes and distribute checks, it has over the years evolved into a ubiquitous national personal identification number which is subject to misuse and abuse. The unregulated sale and purchase of these numbers is a significant factor in a growing range of illegal activities, including fraud, identity theft, and tragically, stalkings and tragically, even murders,” Markey said.

A simple Internet search in which one enters the words “Social Security Numbers,” will turn up links to dozens of web sites that offer to provide you, for a fee, Social Security numbers for other citizens, or to link up a Social Security number that you might have with a name, address and telephone number. The data-mining firms and private detective agencies that offer these services are accessing information from the databases of credit bureaus, financial services companies, data brokers, or other commercial firms. The Markey bill would empower the Federal Trade Commission to issue and enforce regulations restricting such commercial sales and uses of the Social Security Number in order to protect the public from identity thieves, stalkers, and other criminals who seek access to the number.

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