Here is reporter Jackie Majerus' story about state Rep. Frank Nicastro's push for legislation making it easier for residents to keep their Social Security numbers private:
A plan to protect the privacy of citizens' Social Security numbers is getting powerful backing from House Speaker James Amann.
People are considered now “more so than ever” about identity theft, said Amann, a Milford Democrat, and are reluctant to surrender their Social Security numbers without just cause.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat, wants to see Connecticut pass legislation to safeguard the rights of people who don’t want to give out their Social Security numbers.
“I’m going to raise it in a committee,” said Nicastro, who serves on the General Law Committee. The lawmakers go back into regular session next month.
“Certainly the concept has a lot of merit,” said Amann. “I think it’s worth exploring.”
When some elderly Bristol Housing Authority residents lost out on a free Thanksgiving turkey last year because they refused to provide Foodshare with their Social Security numbers, Nicastro’s resolve deepened.
Nicastro said it was “crazy” that the seniors who were careful with their numbers missed out on a turkey. If identity verification was the goal, Nicastro said, there are other ways to do it.
Amann praised Nicastro as a “bulldog,” and said he hopes the Bristol lawmaker will work hard on the Social Security number protection law.
“It’s something that we should take notice of,” said Amann, and “a good idea to debate.”
The legislation is aimed at protecting consumers, much like state Sen. Tom Colapietro’s wildly popular “no call” list. Passed several years ago, the law safeguards telephone customers from telemarketers.
This measure to protect citizens who want to keep their Social Security number private may not be much different.
“I really believe it’s one of those issues that could have a life of its own,” said Amann.
While people may feel secure about a corporation or retailer, Amann said, they can’t always be sure about everyone working for that corporation.
“We don’t know who we’re giving those Social Security numbers to,” Amann said. He said it is an issue that Americans should consider nationally.
Both individuals and corporations can be victims of identity theft, Amann said.
“That’s part of the American problem right now with security,” Amann said.
Amann said he’s not sure if under the Constitution lawmakers can prevent anyone from asking for a Social Security number.
Nicastro agreed, but said the law could prohibit retailers or service providers from penalizing those who choose to keep the number private.
The Social Security Administration advises that citizens treat their Social Security number as “confidential information.” If asked for the number, the agency says, people should ask why it is needed, how it will be used, what happens if they refuse and what law requires them to give it.
Nicastro said he’s already begun discussing his idea for protective legislation with other lawmakers and found them supportive.
“It’s out of control,” said Nicastro. “We’ve gotta stop it.”
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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