Millions of consumers each year fall victim to unscrupulous entities or individuals who steal personal data. With identity theft continuing as a growing problem around the world, it’s not all that surprising that government agencies, organizations and outraged citizens are taking a stand against these thieves and instituting ways to protect personal information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is but one of the government agencies that has taken a stand against identity theft. Now, it seems as if they are asking Congress for an even bigger step.
One of the key pieces of information that identify thieves seek is a person’s social security number. The social security number is the doorway to opening new credit accounts, landing a job and even filing for a tax refund. Maneesha Mithal, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, testified before a Congressional committee asking Congress to take more action to protect consumers against identity theft, specifically as it pertains to social security numbers.
Since the social security number is how the government identifies consumers, the director requested that the government take further measures to protect these numbers from getting into the wrong hands. Some of the steps that the director is requesting of Congress are:
- Creating a national system that can verify a consumer by means other than just the social security number
- A system for reducing the public display and usage of social security numbers
- A set of Congressional national data-security standards
- Notification of consumers when their private information is breached
According to the director of the FTC, these measures would not only help to protect consumers from the theft and fraudulent use of their social security numbers, but would also save American taxpayers a lot of money. The FTC receives up to 20,000 calls a week reporting identity theft issues, which is costing consumers billions of dollars annually.
But speaking on Capitol Hill isn’t the only action that the FTC is taking. The agency is also actively helping consumers through their website, OnGuardOnline.gov, to take more responsibility in protecting themselves from identity theft during tax time. They are warning that if a consumer receives a notice that more than one tax return was filed in their name, it could be a sign of identity theft. The site walks them through the steps of righting the wrong.