A bill sponsored by Raj Mukherji (D-33), Wayne DeAngelo (D-14), and Jamel Holley (D-20) to protect the deceased from identity theft unanimously cleared the state assembly (74-0) earlier this week.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Protecting against the identity theft of deceased persons, a practice commonly referred to as “ghosting,” bill A-2606 mandates the chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to compare its database records with death records produced by the Social Security Administration, and mark those deceased appropriately.
“With the rise of social media and accessibility of public records online, it has become increasingly easy for people to access personal information and, by extension, for people evading the law to leverage such information for criminal acts,” Mukherji said in a statement.
“By increasing the vigilance of our administrative systems under this legislation, we hope to close the gap of opportunity for fraudsters and criminals.”
The legislation follows a 2015 report by the New Jersey State Auditor that uncovered the issuance of more than 6,000 licenses or identification documents for individuals who were deceased.
“Every year, Americans have their identities stolen and fraudulently used by criminals to open credit card accounts, apply for loans and get a wide array of services,” added DeAngelo.
“This underhanded assault on unsuspecting victims leaves them and their families to grapple with a mountain of legal problems.”
In codifying procedures for regular data sharing, the bill provides for MVC reviews of Social Security Administration data on – at minimum – a monthly basis.
Under current law, data review by the MVC has been left to the agency’s discretion and amounted to periodical receipt of data from the Social Security Administration through the National Technical Information Service within the Department of Commerce.
“All it takes is access to the last four digits of a social security number and some personal information to open up Pandora’s box,” Holley stated.
“Families of nearly 2.5 million Americans are facing the fallout of identity theft, every year, after the loss of a loved one. Using the identity of a deceased individual is particularly egregious and can leave a permanent mark on their life’s legacy. More frequent checks on the records systems would ensure that we can stave off potentially catastrophic incidences of identity theft.”
The bill will now head to the state senate for further consideration.