By Jack Minor
The Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling that using someone else’s Social Security number is not identity theft as long as you use your own name with it.
The case involved Felix Montes-Rodriguez who went to Hajek Chevrolet in Longmont to obtain a car loan. Rodriguez admitted that he used a false Social Security number on the loan application and to find employment. The loan application went to various lenders and was finally approved. The legitimate owner of the social security number became aware that his number had been used fraudulently and notified the police who subsequently arrested Montes-Rodriguez.
A jury convicted Montes-Rodriguez of using another person’s social security number and the decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals. In a 4-3 decision the Colorado Supreme Court overturned the conviction saying that the social security number was simply one of several pieces of identifying information on the application and since Montes-Rodriguez used his real name he was not posing as someone else.
In the decision the court ruled, “The defendant did not assume a false or fictitious identity or capacity,” and that he “did not hold himself out to be another person when he used another person’s social security number to obtain an automobile loan.”
During the trial, representatives from Hajek Chevrolet testified a social security number was required as part of their application process in order to conduct a credit check.
The court ruled that was irrelevant as it was a lender requirement, not a legal requirement. They stated that even though Montes-Rodriguez may have “lacked the practical capacity to obtain a loan …because they could not check his credit without a social security number” he did not lack the legal capacity to receive a loan. The court went on to state there is “no evidence a social security number is a legal requirement to obtain a loan.”
Justice Nathan Coats, writing in the dissent, said, “The defendant’s deliberate misrepresentation of the single most unique and important piece of identifying data for credit-transaction purposes” was “precisely the kind of conduct meant to be proscribed as criminal.” Coats went on to say that an individual’s credit history is often only available through their social security number and when a person is using someone else’s social security number that person is assuming the other’s credit history. Coats was joined in his dissension by Justices Nancy Rice and Allison Eid.
Greeley residents expressed outrage over the decision. Margaret, a local mother of four, said, “That is outrageous.” “ The holder of the number could be prevented from getting a home loan because of this. What were they thinking?” Bill, a school crossing guard, concurred saying “That is absolutely crazy.”