We need a unique identifier number

Stuff reports:

Severe deficiencies in the law are giving criminals “a simple means for identity theft” by making it easy to change their names, an investigation has revealed.

Former ombudsman Mel Smith uncovered the loopholes while investigating how convicted paedophile Te Rito Henry Miki was able to teach at six schools. …

The inquiry into the employment of Miki found he was easily able to steal the identity of a registered teacher friend, who emigrated to Australia in 2009, and to adopt his teacher registration.

Miki – who accumulated 53 separate aliases – subsequently applied to the office of the registrar-general to change his friend’s name to another identity.

Name change applicants only have to supply a statutory declaration, sworn before a court official, lawyer or justice of the peace – who needs only to ask if the contents are accurate. The applicant is not required to present verification of authentication or any other supporting documents to the registrar-general. …

The registrar-general is not required to inform the Passport Office, Customs or Immigration of a name change. If the relevant agencies had been notified, then when the friend first returned to New Zealand in September 2009 “the theft of identity would have become known and acted on at that time”, the report said.

Miki was arrested in February and was jailed for about four years.

Mr Smith said an average of 7375 people changed their name every year.

“Most of those, I’m sure, would be for perfectly proper and lawful reasons but . . . unfortunately New Zealand society is not as honest as it used to be.”

There was anecdotal evidence an official name change was available to people who wanted to get past the border “having legal obligations here, whether that’s child support, unpaid fines or even something much more serious”, he said.

I think there is a simple solution – like in the US. Every individual is assigned a unique identity number. Then you can change your name to whatever you like, but it will be linked to your UIN, which means pedophiles will not be able to get jobs in schools no matter what name they change to.

You’d need some privacy restrictions on which government agencies can access your UIN and identity for which reasons, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to allow the Government to accurately identify people for legitimate reasons.

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