Davis district weighs options to reduce ID theft
BY LYNZE WARDLE Standard-Examiner Davis Bureau
FARMINGTON -Davis School District officials and the founder of a local government-spending watchdog group met Tuesday to discuss ways the district can help re- duce identity theft.
"We know that there is a problem, and that this is something that we have got to be aware of," said board Vice President Tamara Lowe.
CitizensForTaxFairness .org co-founder Ronald Mortensen asked district school board members to help ensure that "taxpayer funds are never used to hire anyone using a fraudulent Social Security number."
The nonprofit organization believes that using government funds to hire individuals using stolen identities is misuse of taxpayer money. Mortensen said he has spoken to a number of groups and government organizations on how they can help reduce the identity stealing.
Mortensen recommended the district adopt the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Employment Eligibility Verification Basic Pilot Program. The free, Internet- based system would allow the district to verify that new hires have valid Social security cards and can. legally work in the U.S.
School districts are an important link in eliminating identity fraud because they build millions of dollars in infrastructure, Mortensen said.
Construction is one of the leading fields where illegal immigrants work, he said, adding that illegal immigrants are responsible for 90 "' percent of identity theft.
“(School districts) spend huge sums of money on building," Mortensen said.
"Our feeling is, if we approve a bond of $200 million, we don't want any of that money going to fraud identity theft."
No decisions were made Tuesday, but district Superintendent Bryan Bowles called the meeting a "first step" in looking at how the district can help reduce identity theft. He said the district is already using a new fingerprinting program to help screen out felons or people using fraudulent Social Security cards.
In the future, Bowles said, the board will discuss how to ensure that contractors who work for the district hire only people with legitimate Social Security cards.
"It is something that we are going to think about," he said.
Mortensen said illegal immigrants are responsible for the majority of identity thefts because they have to get a Social Security card before they can be hired by law-abiding employers. If they cannot secure a card through legal means, he said, some choose to fabricate one.
Identity thieves exist in all segments of society, however. Parents with poor credit have been convicted of stealing their own children's Social Security numbers, Mortensen said, to get loans or find jobs.
Many people who steal identities target children, because the thefts are unlikely to be discovered until the children apply for credit cards or loans as teenagers.
According to a 2005 news release from the Utah Attorney General's office, Mortensen said, 1,800 Utah children under the age of 12 have had their identity stolen.
In other cases, someone will fraudulently make up a Social Security number, and then the government will unknowingly assign the number to a child.
"That child has a credit history before it is even born,” he said.