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RPAC to launch “Stop ID Theft NOW!” Campaign

At some point in the next 24 hours, a new “Stop ID Theft NOW!” Campaign will be launched by RPAC, the Records Preservation & Access Committee (a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies).

UPDATE: The petition is up and running. Sign it here.

This initiative is important. It’s not enough for us as genealogists to say what we’re against — and there’s no doubt about that: we’re against willy-nilly closing off access to records. We also have to say what we’re for — and there’s no doubt about that either: we’re for using the records we have to combat the problem of identity theft.

The point that RPAC will ask us all to help it make — with the Administration, including the Commissioner of Social Security, with our Senators and with our members of the House of Representatives — is that the answer to identity theft is not to hide information but to use it. That there are steps that can be taken, right now, this minute, to affirmatively use the Social Security death master file to stop identity thieves dead in their tracks, and prevent them from committing fraud by using the Social Security numbers of deceased children and adults. Today’s blog post Why You Care About MGC, SSDI, the DMF and RPAC by the President of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council Polly Kimmit is a great overview of this whole issue.

One key element of the RPAC initiative will be a petition drive, which will “urge the Administration to take steps that should curtail the filing of fraudulent tax refund claims based upon identity theft from deceased infants and adults almost immediately.” As soon as the initiative is formally launched, links to the petition site will be posted here and throughout the blogs and other news outlets of the genealogical community. Every single one of us should sign that petition and follow it up with letters, emails and faxes to our own Senators and Representatives supporting this initiative.

But make no mistake about this, folks: signing an online petition is not going to be enough. We’re still going to have to contact our legislators — individually and as genealogy groups — and let them know where we stand and NOT just where we stand with everyone else in opposition to identity theft. Saying publicly that we don’t like identity theft any more than anyone else is something we all need to do — because it’s the right thing to do and because it will help keep our overall position from being misinterpreted as not understanding or not caring about the impact identity theft has on people.

But taking that public stance — by itself — isn’t going to keep access to records open.

Yes, it’s important that we join the fight against identity theft… but let’s all keep one thing firmly in mind: access to public information cannot be allowed to become a casualty in that fight. Only when we help our elected representatives understand that using public records is the way to stop fraud, not closing those records, can we protect all of the interests we all have here. That means educating ourselves, understanding the issues and speaking up on behalf of freedom of information. As many times, and by as many means, as we need to.

What happens to us all when records are closed (Creative Commons image by adactio)

Stand by for more…

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