Attorney general's strike force says stopping identity theft a top priority

Aug 16 2012 - 7:32pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- Identification theft is the No. 1 priority of the attorney general's strike force.

That according to Deputy Attorney General Kirk M. Torgensen.

He and Ken Wallentine, chief of law enforcement with the attorney general's office, spoke to the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee in Salt Lake City this week.

Wallentine said as children become adults and apply for student loans or credit cards, they are learning that their Social Security numbers have been stolen by others.

"Identity theft is a significant gateway crime," Wallentine said. "It's not just about credit cards, but about gun trafficking and government benefits. We were not looking at ID theft four years ago. Back then, most ID theft was used to make fake driver's licenses."

But now when officers of the attorney general's SECURE Strike Force begin investigating stolen identification done by undocumented residents, they also uncover drug trafficking, human trafficking and gun trafficking into the state, Wallentine said.

Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Roy, said most of his constituents "in the small towns of Roy and Hooper," are concerned about keeping their children's Social Security numbers safe.

Torgensen said TransUnion Credit Bureau has agreed to allow parents in Utah to freeze their children's Social Security numbers for free. That agreement came after the state's Medicaid system was breached earlier this year.

"Since the Medicaid fraud breach, our numbers (of ID theft) have skyrocketed," Torgensen said.

Those getting hit the hardest are children, he said.

Torgensen said he would like to see Utah's lawmakers require all three credit bureaus protect children's Social Security numbers. Some states, like Maryland, require credit bureaus to freeze Social Security numbers of children.

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