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WASHINGTON-Legislation was introduced Sept. 4 to aid victims of identity theft to regain control of their financial identities. In introducing her legislation, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) noted the recent Federal Trade Commission study, which found that identity theft complaints climbed 87% between 2001 and 2002 and now account for 43% of fraud complaints. “It is an insidious crime because it often occurs without the victim’s knowledge, yet leaves scars on their credit records and reputations that can last for years, and cost thousands of dollars to repair,” she said. Cantwell, who introduced a similar bill last congressional session, explained that identity theft victims often have difficulties obtaining the records to clear their names because their information does not match what is on file with the businesses; she believes her legislation will solve that problem. H.R. 1581, The Identify Theft Victims Assistance Act, creates a standard national process for establishing a victim of identity theft and requires the FTC to provide a certificate for notarization stating the victim is who they claim to be, is a victim, and has filed claims with local law enforcement and the FTC. After presenting this certificate, a police report and a government ID, the company must deliver copies of all financial records documenting the crime within 20 days. These documents, under the bill, could also be presented to credit reporting agencies to prevent problems resulting from the fraud to be reported. The bill also allows the victim to designate the investigating agency-local, state, or federal investigators-and charges the existing Identity Theft Coordinating Committee to consult with state and local law enforcement agencies. Tougher state laws would not be preempted under H.R. 1581. “The need for a national system is readily apparent, as identity theft is increasingly a crime that crosses state lines.Although identity theft is a federal crime, most often, state and local law enforcement agencies are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crimes. Yet law enforcement has yet to fully recognize the serious nature of the problem or to develop a coordinated investigative strategy,” she said. Cantwell concluded, “There is no doubt about the scope of the problem: identity theft is already a major problem, and it’s getting worse. We must provide victims with the tools they need to regain control of their lives.” [email protected]

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