Combating Identity Theft by protecting your personal information

Jeff Atwater

Recent news reports have highlighted an increasing trend of identity theft in Florida. In the first half of 2011, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 20,000 complaints from Floridians claiming their identities were stolen.

Misuse of social security numbers is the most frequent type of identity theft. Scammers use the numbers to file fraudulent tax refunds, tap into bank accounts, apply for credit cards and even file bogus medical claims. Identity theft is devastating for the individual victim but also impacts each and every Floridian through increased costs.

As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, I was shocked to learn that current law allows for the release of social security numbers to certain groups whose business is to connect Floridians with their unclaimed property. Without careful and diligent protection, these social security numbers could end up in the wrong hands.

That’s why I am pursuing legislation during the 2012 Session to eliminate a loophole that provides unclaimed property locators access to personal, confidential information that must be protected. Florida, the state with the most identity theft complaints last year, is the only state in the nation that still provides unclaimed property locators with social security numbers.

For more information about how to protect yourself from identity theft, visit our Your Money Matter$ Web page at

Editor’s Note: Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services including the Division of Insurance Fraud. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse, and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.

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