Local News

Crackdown On Social Security Numbers Begins, But ID Theft Still A Threat

Posted August 27, 2005

— When one walks into the state's administration building, a sign-in book with names and driver's license numbers is in plain view.

  • Related Web Site:

    N.C. Dept. Of Justice Consumer Protection

  • Related Resource:

    Tough New Law Will Make It Harder For Thieves To Steal Identity

  • While many people are aware that Social Security numbers can be used in cases of identity theft, the North Carolina attorney general's office says other personal numbers, such as driver's license numbers, can also be a tool for identity thieves.

    "Personal ID numbers should not be open to roving eyes," said Josh Stein, with the attorney general's office.

    To enter the administration building, visitors have to reveal their driver's license number for security reasons.

    "There's an incredible tension between security and privacy," Stein said. That tension exists with business, too.

    Many companies also want personal information when customers establish new accounts with them.

    "We either ask for your Social Security number or your driver's license number so we can perform a credit check," said Garrick Francis, a spokesman for Progress Energy.

    The problem, however, is that some customers, like Lisalynn Kelley, do not know they can put down a deposit instead.

    "It's the first question they ask, 'What's your Social Security number?' It's almost a natural response to say, 'OK, here's my Social Security number,'" Kelley said.

    One challenge is the front line -- customer service. Customer service representatives are usually the first, and sometimes only, link for consumers.

    The attorney general's office says that the front-line phone jugglers need to be able to tell customers why the information for which they are asking is needed and how it will be used.

    "You have a right to ask questions." Stein said.

    Some of those questions include, "Why do you need this?" "Do you really need it?" "Are there alternatives I can give instead of giving my Social Security number?"

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