Sale of Social Security Numbers May Be Banned Issues of Privacy, Security Spur Lawmakers' Debate

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Prompted by a highly publicized murder and mounting public concern about privacy and identity theft, lawmakers are considering whether to restrict or ban the sale or disclosure of a person's Social Security number without their consent.

In hearings yesterday and tomorrow, a House Ways and Means subcommittee will hear testimony from people whose Social Security numbers were stolen, as well as from business leaders and state officials who fear that limiting use of the numbers could turn record-keeping into a nightmare.

The issue caught fire Oct. 15, when 20-year-old Amy Lynn Boyer of Nashua, N.H., was stalked and killed by a former classmate who had purchased her Social Security number for $45 from Docusearch.com. The Internet Web site based in Boca Raton, sells private data like cellular phone records, driver's records and bank account balances.

Liam Youens had used Boyer's Social Security number to track her to her job at a dentist's office, where he fatally shot her, then shot and killed himself. Police later discovered a Web site where Youens talked about stalking and killing Boyer. Boyer's family has since filed a wrongful death suit against Docusearch.com.

The incident prompted Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., to offer an amendment that imposes civil penalties and makes it illegal to sell or disclose Social Security numbers. …