We all know that identity theft is a very serious federal crime. Those victim to identity theft have to spend enormous amounts of time working with federal agencies to correctly identify themselves, then stop the perpetrator’s actions of stealing money, jobs, etc. before it is too late.
We also expect that the person who gets caught stealing one’s identity, such as a Social Security number, would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
However, in our story, there has been a case of social security identity fraud and theft. A person in Minnesota has had their social security number used in nefarious ways. And the perpetrator? None other than the state of Oregon’s health services department, who used this “dummy” Social Security number to get young Oregon girls birth control.
From The Charlotte Observer:
The Oregon Health Authority used what it believed to be an unassigned Social Security number for five years to enroll young adults in a program that administers birth control and other family planning services. The practice ended when the agency learned the number did in fact belong to an individual.
“Were we aware that the dummy Social Security number was being used? Yes,” said OHA spokesman Jonathan Modie. “Were we aware it was tied to a specific person? After we were notified, yeah. And then we virtually immediately stopped using that and changed our processes.”
Modie said the agency’s actions were legal, and OHA is not being prosecuted for a crime…
The Social Security number had been used to enroll 9,487 clients during that time, Modie said. The agency has permission from the federal government to enroll patients in the program for 45 days, regardless of whether they provide Social Security numbers initially. This allows the staff time to verify their eligibility…
So if a Social Security number was not needed for these young people to enroll in their program, why in the world would they use a dummy Social Security number in the first place? This is nothing short of identity theft!
Welsh said his group received a tip about a year ago that the OHA was using the unassigned Social Security number and has been trying to learn more for the past year. He said the Social Security number that OHA used actually belonged to a person in Minnesota. Modie would not confirm that.
“For over a year, we’ve been attempting to flesh out this and get this confirmed by someone at the OHA,” Welsh said. “We received a letter from a midlevel person at the OHA confirming that, yes, they in fact did this.”
Modie said he is not aware of an active federal investigation by the Social Security Administration or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services into the situation. He said the issue was corrected after it was uncovered to the satisfaction of those agencies.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 ruled a person cannot be convicted under federal identity theft law for using another person’s Social Security number unless a prosecutor proves the defendant knew the number belonged to another person. In that case, a Mexican man provided an unassigned Social Security number on a job application not knowing it belonged to someone. The Supreme Court’s decision reversed a lower court’s conviction of aggravated identity theft.
The Oregon Health Authority should be held accountable for their actions. Why in the world can they be allowed to use a Social Security number to sign up almost 10,000 people into a program that doesn’t require a number at first enrollment. And how can ignorance be a simple way to get out of the law? Anyone can lie and say they didn’t know that a Social Security number belongs to someone else!
It is time for both the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to complete a full investigation on this state program and administer justice for the person whose Social Security number was used to give girls contraception.
Source: The Charlotte Observer