A picture of Representative Thomas E. Petri
Thomas P.
Former Republican WI 6
About Rep. Thomas
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  • A picture of Representative Thomas E. Petri

    Introduction of the Social Security Identity Defense Act of 2013

    by Former Representative Thomas E. Petri

    Posted on 2013-02-28

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    PETRI of wisconsin in the house of representatives Thursday, February 28, 2013 Mr. PETRI. Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing the Social Security Identity Defense Act of 2013, legislation to enhance the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to fight identity theft when that agency becomes aware of the fraudulent use of a taxpayer's personal information.

    This legislation is a direct response to the experience of constituents of mine in Princeton, Wisconsin. During a routine review of his credit report, my constituent found accounts opened by another person using his Social Security number. This discovery raised many concerns, not the least of which was that this person's income might be reported to the IRS under his Social Security number. Upon contacting the IRS, he was told that the IRS knew of the situation and that they had known about it for some time.

    Not surprisingly, this answer was not altogether comforting. The IRS knew that someone else had been using his Social Security number, but kept that information under lock and key. While the IRS remained silent, additional frauds were committed, resulting in the further misuse of my constituent's personal information by another person to establish a fraudulent credit history. When he raised this issue with the IRS, he was astounded by the agency's answer. Privacy statutes prevent the IRS from discussing the return information of one taxpayer with anyone else. In the view of the IRS, the fraudulent use of my constituent's Social Security number was the personal return information of another taxpayer, and this fraud could not be disclosed to the rightful owner of that personal identifier, even if this disclosure would help prevent additional frauds.

    This policy makes no sense and actually puts the IRS on the wrong side in the fight against identity theft. My legislation aims to correct this problem by changing the privacy statutes to direct the IRS to inform a taxpayer when the agency learns through its normal course of business that a Social Security number assigned to that taxpayer has been used fraudulently by another worker.

    Both Congress and our administrative departments and agencies, including the IRS, have made progress in combating identity theft, but more needs to be done. For this reason, the Social Security Identity Defense Act would provide an additional vital tool for our government to deploy.

    Under this legislation, the IRS would be required to share any information in its possession about the fraudulent use of a taxpayer's personal information with that information's rightful owner. The agency also would be directed to transmit information that may be evidence of an identity theft to the FBI so that the Bureau can make this material available to state and local law enforcement agencies upon their request. Finally, the Social Security Identity Defense Act calls for the IRS to direct employers not to include a Social Security number on a W-2 form when that agency is aware that the employee is making fraudulent use of that number.

    These are important steps forward. They will empower both citizens and law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat identity theft, and they will limit the use of personal identifiers in the commission of future crimes. I urge my colleagues to join me in this effort by cosponsoring the Social Security Defense Act.


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