May 18, 2008

Identity theft among illegal immigrants

When you think about it, it makes sense.  Who needs illegal documents?  People who want documentation to get jobs, credit and driver's licenses and appear as if they are in the country legally.

Steven Malanga, senior editor of  City Journal writes in Illegal in More Ways Than One

As everyone knows, America is experiencing an epidemic of identity theft. In the last five years alone, complaints to the Federal Trade Commission from U.S. residents who have had their identity stolen have skyrocketed 60 percent, to 258,427 in 2007—one-third of all consumer fraud complaints that the commission receives. What’s less well understood, however, is how illegal immigration is helping to fuel this rash of crime. Seeking access to jobs, credit, and driver’s licenses, many undocumented aliens are using the personal data of real Americans on forged documents. The immigrants’ identity theft has become so pervasive that the need to combat it is “a disturbing front in the war against illegal immigration,” according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The FTC’s latest statistics help show why. The top five states in terms of reported identity theft in 2007 all have large immigrant populations—the border states of Arizona, California, and Texas, as well as Florida and Nevada.
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Government statistics probably grossly underestimate the size of the problem. Many local police departments don’t track identity theft accurately, and the FTC only reports complaints that it receives. By combining data on complaints with FTC consumer surveys—which show that far more people have had their identity stolen than report it—Identity Theft 911 estimates that in Arizona alone, some 1.57 million people, or a quarter of the state’s population, have been victims over the last six years. About one-fifth are children—whose Social Security numbers are especially valuable targets, since the kids usually aren’t employed, making discovery of the fraud less likely. “We just don’t know how they’re getting all this information on minors,” says Maryann McKessy, bureau chief for fraud and identity-theft enforcement in the Maricopa County attorney general’s office.

One disturbing theory: health-care employees with access to children’s files are working for organized gangs that trade in illegal documents and are willing to pay richly for the data. “We have a major problem with workers in medical offices stealing patients’ identities, selling them and making a direct profit,” Sergeant James Bracke of the Phoenix Police Department told authors of the Arizona report.

Posted by Jill Fallon at May 18, 2008 1:43 AM | Permalink