If Congress and state legislatures are looking for meaningful and popular legislation, they need to consider developing new laws to help stop identity theft.
They could do it by prohibiting businesses and other private entities from collecting Social Security numbers. They should also make it illegal to sell Social Security information to third parties.
How much of a hit would this be with the American people? Consider the response to our recent InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion national survey.
Question: Do you favor or oppose legislation that would limit and end dissemination of Social Security card numbers by any third party or private company, as well as make it more difficult to deny service to customers who refuse to give their Social Security number?
Favor -- 81 percent
Oppose -- 11 percent
Don't know/Undecided -- 8 percent
The poll was conducted among a random sample of 600 Americans from July 15 to 20. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
In the past year, a boatload of corporations have lost or had stolen from them private information that was supposedly secure. Where some of that data ended up is anyone's scary guess.
These corporate victims include credit card and personal data companies that sell this sensitive information to other companies, or even to governments.
The problem seems to have subsided somewhat, at least for now. But the public remains agitated about it.
The federal government and many state governments are in sore need of fresh policy ideas. This meeting of public and political needs begs for a swift and strong response to the continuing risk of identity theft.
A report soon to be released will show that at some time millions of American seniors have been the victims of some kind of fraud, or at least identify theft, thanks to the unauthorized taking of their personal information.
They are our most vulnerable citizens. And their potential electoral power can make any candidate vulnerable, too.
Don't think members of Congress don't know it. Identify theft has become the subject of quiet but intense discussions at meetings of influential state legislators.
Bob Barr is the former congressman who once helped prosecute Bill Clinton. Since then he has taken on battles that are less partisan and very popular. He is fighting infringements on the liberty and privacy of individuals. That continued struggle has made him perhaps the nation's top expert on these matters.
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