Bill will help prevent identity theft

Monday , February 11, 2013 - 1:02 PM

Rep. Steve Handy

Sometimes the simplest and smallest things can have the greatest and longest lasting impact. Let me explain. In our modern world, and especially with the advent of ubiquitous technology that is all pervasive in our lives, an unintended consequence has arisen, the vulnerability of our identities and the codes and numbers and passwords that tie us to confidential data.

We’re all aware of the epidemic of identity theft regarding credit cards, Social Security numbers, and bank accounts. And then there’s old-fashioned identity theft, our home and business addresses. It’s a scary time and just when you think you’re not vulnerable, think again.

That brings me to a small but potentially significant piece of legislation I’m running this year, House Bill 79, Motor Vehicle Registration and Insurance Amendments. Passage of the bill into law will mean that the motor vehicle registration form we are required to carry in our cars will no longer include an address. Also, the bill will prohibit proof of insurance cards and certificates to include addresses as well.

Why am I sponsoring this legislation? I hope this bill becomes law in order to protect us from desperate criminals who apparently will stoop to no ends to capture our identities and do us harm.

Here’s where the idea came from: Exactly a year ago, friends of mine emerged from a matinee movie in Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle.

To their surprise, they discovered their right passenger window was broken and their vehicle registration was missing. They didn’t think much about it because a briefcase with an iPad was still on the backseat. Some kid must have been scared off. After spending another hour or so getting the window fixed, they returned to their condo only to find that it had been ransacked. They were totally cleaned out and lost not only the usual big-ticket items such as TVs and DVD players, but also their irreplaceable personal jewelry and heirlooms. The brazen criminals in fact returned the next day to attempt to steal their cars because they had swiped the extra car keys, too.

My friends were in the dubious position of being the first victims of a Seattle-area crime wave that affected more than 60 families. Finally, in September of last year, the criminal gang was stopped but my friends were never made whole. They have never recovered a thing and still feel horribly violated.

This got me thinking. Is it necessary to have the address on these forms? In discussions with local law enforcement officials and the Utah Department of Safety, I was told, “No, we already know who you are when we pull you over for a traffic stop.” I’m glad that law enforcement has the means within each patrol car to quickly determine a person’s identity from their license plate alone, which really makes the documents unnecessary in most instances. In fact, law enforcement encouraged me to move ahead and termed my legislation “a good idea, let’s do it.”

The insurance community has been receptive and cooperative as well but they will have until 2014 to comply because many of those forms and cards are already in the process of production and mailing.

My final motivation to move ahead occurred when I read news articles from Nov 30, of last year about 15 cars that were burglarized over three days in Salt Lake City. The thieves stole vehicle registration forms and other papers containing personal information. Gee, I wonder why the burglars did this and what they were looking for?

So let this be a wake up call to all of us. Today, right now, remove all of those car repair and oil-change receipts. Cleanse your vehicle of coupons from fast food restaurants and anything else that carries your name and address.

You have my permission, once the bill becomes law, to take a big, black marker and strike through the address line on your vehicle registration form and proof of insurance. You’ll be glad you did. Who knows, maybe this little thing will slow down a desperate criminal from cleaning out your home while you’re shopping with your children at your local mall.

It’s just a little thing, right?

Rep. Steve Handy represents District 16, encompassing Layton, Clearfield and Hill Air Force Base, in the Utah House of Representatives.

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