Unsettling Ruling; Colorado Supreme Court says using stolen SSN not identity theft

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I read about the Colorado Supreme Court's latest decision to reverse a conviction for "criminal impersonation" with a shiver of dread. The signal sends a disturbing message to identity thieves and their victims. 

The case--in which a Colorado man, Felix Montes-Rodriguez, used another's Social Security Number to obtain a car loan and employment--was found by the Colorado Supreme Court not to meet the criteria for "criminal impersonation." 

In other words, it's not identity theft.  Basically, if an identity thief claims the SSN they used was essentially made up -picked out of thin air,  -it's not Identity theft.
Scanned image of author's US Social Security card.

Image via Wikipedia

The October 25th ruling sets a chilling precedent.  This type of ruling provides a great big loophole for those who choose to use -or misuse  a Social Security number that they KNOW doesn't belong to them and simply claim they didn't know it belonged to you -or anyone in particular.  In this case, the perpetrator (who was found guilty of this crime in a lower court) used his own name and other personal details, and merely included a fraudulent SSN. 

As a victim of identity theft and an advocate for victims of this crime, I must agree with the dissenting opinion of the court, which reminds us all that the crime of identity theft involves the fraudulent use of personal identification, whether or not some of the information used is accurate.  If any of the identifiers are fraudulent, then the whole shebang should be considered fraud. 

Jim Malmberg from ACCESS is similarly dismayed by the ruling.  He calls the ruling "baffling" and "misguided," and goes on to say, "The only saving grace is that in the ensuing years since Montes-Rodriguez actually committed his crime, Colorado has put in place an identity theft statute that specifically makes it a crime to use another person's Social Security Number." 

You really have to wonder what on earth is going on when a state's legislature can put laws in place and then watch while their judges make decisions to the contrary.  To be fair, the law was enacted after this particular crime was committed, but the judges could not have been ignorant of the fact that this law is now on the books.

What are the Colorado justices thinking?  According to attorney Mari Frank, Author, identity theft victim and lawyer who teaches law classes about identity theft, "This 4 to 3 decision demonstrates that false identification and identity theft are still misunderstood by the 'majority' of people, including judges.  For far too long, the courts and industry have not taken identity theft seriously and here is but another example."

I agree!

Simply put; Montes-Rodriguez's intent was fraud; he attempted to obtain a loan by presenting a Social Security Number that he knew was not his.  That intent should have been taken into account by the Colorado Supreme Court.  Using a SSN that is not yours -is a crime.  It should be treated as such.

It's quite apparent that we must continue to speak out and raise awareness to the risks and impact of this crime.   What happened to the rights of the victim? 

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1 Comment

Fake SSN'S card are very easy to get. If the employer does not run SSN's through E-Verify, there is no way to tell if it is fake. So as long as the employer has a SS card photocopy for the employee on file, he cannot be prosecuted­. Make E-Verify mandatory.


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