The Federal Trade Commission recently testified before two House subcommittees on the problem of identity theft, and the steps theyre taking to aid consumers who become identity theft victims.
Identity theft is when someone uses the identifying information of another person to commit fraud or engage in other unlawful activities. The thief may use someone elses personal information to open new credit card accounts, take over an existing credit card account, take out loans in another persons name, or write fraudulent checks or transfer money from another persons bank or brokerage account. Of course, any of these represent a significant invasion of the consumers privacy, and could result in dire financial consequences. All consumers should be alert to the unfortunate reality that everyone is vulnerable.
The scary part of identity theft is how simple it is to accomplish. No high-tech methods needed. The thieves intercept orders of new checks in the mail, call banks or other financial institutions under false pretenses, or the newest ruse, prey on consumers fears about Y2K problems. The thief may call a consumer and represent that he or she is calling from the consumers bank and claims that the caller needs certain information about the consumers account to comply with Year 2000 requirements.
Under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, the FTC is responsible for managing information sharing among public and private entities, and aiding victims by serving as a central federal source of information. The FTC will soon provide a toll-free telephone number for consumers to call who think they may be the victims of identity theft.
The FTC testimony before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection and the House Subcommittee on Finance and Hazardous Materials is available through the Web site www.ftc.gov, and from the FTC Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Interested consumers may also call 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357) or TDD 202-326-2502. The FTC also provides a NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.