Identity Theft Occurs Every Two Seconds
In its 2018 analysis, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) uncovered potentially 39 million identity theft cases between 2012 to 2016 that involved unlawfully present foreign nationals who stole the identities of American citizens. Illegal aliens frequently use stolen or falsified Social Security numbers to apply for, and often get, U.S. jobs. An estimated 8 million unlawfully present aliens work in the U.S. economy. Some among them vote illegally in state and federal elections.
After culling through more than 1 million tax returns from last year, auditors uncovered roughly 883,000 cases of employment identity theft. According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) the Internal Revenue Service failed to notify 393,000 victims that included more than 133,000 minors whose parents are therefore then unable to protect against the continued use of their children’s Social Security numbers.
The Washington Times wrote that the IRS, citing privacy issues, steadfastly refuses to advise parents about their children’s data theft, a misguided policy that can lead to ruining, in the future, the children’s credit rating and their employment prospects. The IRS has another questionable practice: the agency only advises of repeat employment identity theft every three years, giving fraudsters carte blanche to continue to use their criminally obtained data.
After their identities have been stolen, victims often spend years and considerable sums trying to restore their good credit ratings. In one egregious case, for 20 years an illegal immigrant drug trafficker and sex offender used a Texas man’s identity which made it impossible for the victim to find employment.
Stealing Social Security numbers is a felony crime, and knowingly submitting a falsified I-9 form is also a felony. On every I-9 form that applicants fill out, the following grave warning appears: “I am aware that federal law provides for imprisonment and/or fines for false statements or use of false documents in connection with the completion of this form.”
Given the alarming identity theft statistics, a crime which occurs every two seconds and that TIGTA once labeled an “epidemic,” the federal government should be in hot pursuit of the perpetrators. Instead, the feds have shown little interest in prosecuting offenders.
Illegal immigration is often referred to as a victimless crime. But U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst took exception to the old canard. After an August 2019 Immigration and Customs Enforcement action at a Mississippi workplace that resulted in the detention of 680 unlawfully present aliens, and the prosecution of 119 for using false documents to gain their employment, Hurst issued a statement that defended ICE.
Said Hurst: Americans have been “directly harmed by the theft of their identities, resulting in citizens not being able to get loans or credit cards, obtain health insurance, and perform other basic activities.”
Identity theft could be stopped in its tracks if Congress could muster up its long-absent political will to take three steps:
a) Mandate E-Verify, the free, online program that would immediately confirm whether a new hire is legally authorized to work in the U.S. E-Verify is available to employers nationwide, but since it’s voluntary, employers who prefer to hire cheap labor can hire illegal immigrants with impunity.
b) Resume no-match letters, the practice that the Social Security Administration adopted in 2002 when it sent out nearly 1 million letters to employers that filed W-2s with information that was inconsistent with the agency’s records. SSA’s original intention was to correct clerical mistakes that had created large sums paid into the system going uncredited. Quickly, however, SSA discovered that the major problem was illegal immigrants who lied to their employers. Thousands of illegal aliens either left their jobs to avoid confrontation or were fired when they were found out. But the no-match letter campaign had various softened iterations before it ended entirely in 2012 when the Chamber of Commerce and immigration activist groups protested.
c) Notify identity theft victims. SSA also should send letters to workers with more than one employer reporting wages to their SSNs. By sending letters to employees showing more than one employer, SSA would put the employees on notice that, unless they are actually working more than one job, they are identity theft victims, and should take immediate action to minimize the damage to their financial and work histories.
Congress’ unwillingness to intervene on behalf of U.S. citizens, and in the process protect illegal immigrant identity thieves, is consistent with its overall indifference to protecting Americans while incentivizing illegal immigration.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at email@example.com.