Washington, DC -- Today, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chair of the Privacy Caucus, announced the committee’s passage of a provision to protecting Americans’ Social Security numbers.   This bipartisan bill would bring a halt to unregulated commerce in Social Security numbers, and would make it crime for a person to sell or purchase Social Security numbers in violation of rules put forth by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The FTC would be given the power to restrict the sale of Social Security numbers, determine appropriate exemptions, and to enforce civil compliance with the bill’s restrictions.  Markey welcomed the support of Republican Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Joe Barton, in passing the amendment to H.R. 1078, the Social Security Number Protection Act.

Markey’s bill was first introduced in 2000, in response to a horrific case in which when a man named Liam Youens was stalking a 21-year old New Hampshire woman named Amy Boyer.  Youens reportedly purchased Amy Boyer’s Social Security number from an Internet Web site for $45.  Using this information, he was able to track her down, a process that he chillingly detailed on an Internet Web site that he named after his target.  Finally, this demented stalker fatally shot Amy Boyer in front of the dental office where she worked, and then killed himself.  Rep. Markey has pressed repeatedly for House action to curb commercial use of the Social Security Number ever since.

“The terrible tragedy of Amy Boyer’s murder underscores the fact that while the Social Security number was originally used simply to collect Social Security taxes and distribute checks, it has over the years evolved into a ubiquitous national personal identification number which is subject to misuse and abuse.  The unregulated sale and purchase of these numbers is a significant factor in a growing range of illegal activities, including fraud, identity theft, and tragically, stalkings and tragically, even murders,” Markey said.

A simple Internet search in which one enters the words “Social Security Numbers,” will turn up links to dozens of web sites that offer to provide you, for a fee, Social Security numbers for other citizens, or to link up a Social Security number that you might have with a name, address and telephone number.  The data-mining firms and private detective agencies that offer these services are accessing information from the databases of credit bureaus, financial services companies, data brokers, or other commercial firms.  The Markey bill would empower the Federal Trade Commission to issue and enforce regulations restricting such commercial sales and uses of the Social Security Number in order to protect the public from identity thieves, stalkers, and other criminals who seek access to the number.

Markey concluded, “If someone actually obtains a Social Security number on the Internet, they have a critically important piece of information that can be used to locate a person, get access to their finances, or engage in a variety of other illegal activities. By stopping unregulated commerce in Social Security numbers, this bill will help reduce the incidence of pretexting crimes, identity thefts and other frauds or crimes involving misuse of a person’s Social Security number.”

For more of Rep. Markey’s working on privacy, please visit http://markey.house.gov.

July 26, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein