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Sacrificing Children for Profits



Identity theft of children not a concern of our government officials

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

By Ronald W. Mortensen
Guest commentary

During the fourth quarter of 2005, 1,626 companies were making salary payments to individuals using Social Security numbers that belong to Utah children under the age of 12. Thirty-seven different people were using one child's Social Security number. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg since the investigations that provided these figures only looked at the Social Security numbers of children on public assistance.

This comes as no surprise since just several months earlier the Utah attorney general's office reported that it had "uncovered an alarming new crime spree involving illegal aliens and identities stolen from victims under the age of 12." In fact, it is estimated that the identities of literally tens of thousands of Utah children are being used by someone else and upward of 200,000 Utahns may have had their identities stolen.


This need not be the case, for as Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told reporters, "Employers can help (prevent identity theft) by being more vigilant during the hiring process and verifying an applicant's Social Security number." However, with limited exceptions, Utah employers, including governmental entities, refuse to voluntarily use the federal government's free Basic Pilot program to verify that their new hires are not using stolen Social Security numbers and that they are eligible to work in the United States.


During the recent legislative session, powerful business interests opposed a bill sponsored by Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, that would have required employers to use the Basic Pilot program in order to reduce the incidence of identity theft. In addition, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce opposed efforts by Rep. Donnelson to end in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.


It didn't matter to the chamber that the only way these students can get jobs with reputable employers, either before or after graduation, is to commit multiple felonies including document fraud, identity theft and perjury. Apparently, being a good corporate citizen does not extend to protecting children and other Utahns from identity theft.


At the state level, rather than actively working to stop identity theft before it happens, the focus of the Utah attorney general's office is on helping victims after their identities have been stolen. Attorney General Shurtleff's position was made clear when he told illegal immigrants present at last year's huge immigration rallies that: "Many of my fellow Republicans will criticize me for being here. They'll tell me instead of speaking to you, that as the chief law enforcement (officer) of Utah I should be arresting you. (That's) not going to happen."


Even the governor has refused to adopt measures that would help prevent identity theft. A year ago, he was asked to ensure that taxpayer funds were not being used to hire illegal immigrants using stolen identities. His executive director of human resources responded that the state had no immediate plans to verify Social Security numbers. Recently, his director of purchasing expressed strong opposition to mandatory employer verification of Social Security numbers because "potential suppliers/contractors will withdraw from doing business with the state" and "the state will lose because of the reduction in competition." It would seem that low prices are more important than protecting the identities of Utah citizens. And, if that weren't enough, the governor's taxpayer-funded Office of Ethnic Affairs actively opposed Rep. Donnelson's bills that would have helped stop illegal immigrant-driven identity theft.


The sad truth is that Utah families will continue to be numbered among the mounting casualties of this identity theft epidemic as long as top government officials and businesses are willing to sacrifice our children for profits and political expediency.


Mortensen is a retired Foreign Service officer who served three tours in Africa and continues to respond to international humanitarian crises in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. He lives in Bountiful.


Sources for Statements in the Op Ed.


1,626 companies:  From an information sheet distributed by Representative Karen Morgan (D) in support of her bill on document fraud.  The figures come from Workforce Services.  Copies available on request.


Impact on children.  Click here and here to view news stories and video about the impact of identity theft on children and their families. 


Attorney General office statement on epidemic of identity theft.


SL Chamber support for in-state tuition Op Eds by Clark Ivory and Lane Beattie. 


Shurtleff Statement on employment verification preventing ID theft:   Deseret News (Salt Lake City),  July 16, 2005  by Joseph M. Dougherty Deseret Morning News.


Shurtleff Statement on arresting illegal immigrants.   


Request to Governor Huntsman to require state and contractors to verify SSNs and employment eligibility.


State HR Director Comment:  Available in a letter sent to  Copy available upon request.


State Procurement Director:  E-mail sent to representative Steve Clark, Chair, Business and Labor Committee.  Copy available upon request.

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