TAMPA - More than 70,000 Floridians were victims of identity theft just last year. Many of those who had their bank accounts raided or tax refunds stolen believe their social security number made it possible. This week, two local lawmakers think they have a solution.
The nine-digit number that appears on so many documents from Medicare cards to credit applications is the key to identity theft.
Crooks steal our social security numbers from the mail or the garbage. They take them from our medical files and credit applications. And as our iTeam found, from documents open to the public online.
"The Tampa Bay area unfortunately has been a major hotspot for identity theft," said U.S Congresswoman, Kathy Castor.
The democratic lawmaker refers to Tampa's epidemic of tax refund theft, which has diverted millions of honest taxpayer money into the pockets of thieves.
Castor and her republican colleague Representative Dennis Ross are proposing the federal government do what credit card companies have been doing for years, show only the last four digits of the account number on documents that are stored or transmitted through the mail or the internet.
"The technology is out there. It just seems the federal agencies need a little push to get going," said Castor.
Even if the bill becomes law, it will be years before enough local agencies and private business follow suit to the point where our social security numbers will be truly hard to steal.
In the meantime, security experts say you should decline to share your complete social security number to any agency or company unless it's absolutely necessary.