Sunday, April 27, 2008

Identity theft often tied to illegal immigration

The IRS said Amanda Bien owed the federal government $3,300 in back taxes for five jobs in multiple states. Jobs she had never worked. It turned out a 28-year-old illegal immigrant had used Bien's name and Social Security number.

Though the IRS may suspect that multiple people are using the same Social Security number, the agency does not investigate identity theft. Local police and prosecutors who investigate identity theft cannot deport the illegal immigrants they arrest.

Many victims don't learn of the crime until their credit score drops or a loan is denied. In one recent case, a man found out when he was arrested for a crime committed by an illegal immigrant using his identity.

The market for false documents and stolen Social Security numbers is booming. Officials say that legal residents with Hispanic last names, or names like Bien that could sound Hispanic, are especially vulnerable. Children and the elderly are also especially susceptible.

Federal estimates indicate that nearly 10 million Americans become victims of identity theft each year. 'We know there are thousands and thousands of people working here who aren't even supposed to be here,' said Brent Anderson, assistant U.S. attorney for Kansas. 'There is rampant ID theft going on.'

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