WASHINGTON-Legislation was introduced Sept. 4 to aid victims ofidentity theft to regain control of their financial identities. Inintroducing her legislation, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) notedthe recent Federal Trade Commission study, which found thatidentity theft complaints climbed 87% between 2001 and 2002 and nowaccount for 43% of fraud complaints. “It is an insidious crimebecause it often occurs without the victim's knowledge, yet leavesscars on their credit records and reputations that can last foryears, 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 difficultiesobtaining the records to clear their names because theirinformation does not match what is on file with the businesses; shebelieves her legislation will solve that problem. H.R. 1581, TheIdentify Theft Victims Assistance Act, creates a standard nationalprocess for establishing a victim of identity theft and requiresthe FTC to provide a certificate for notarization stating thevictim is who they claim to be, is a victim, and has filed claimswith local law enforcement and the FTC. After presenting thiscertificate, a police report and a government ID, the company mustdeliver copies of all financial records documenting the crimewithin 20 days. These documents, under the bill, could also bepresented to credit reporting agencies to prevent problemsresulting from the fraud to be reported. The bill also allows thevictim to designate the investigating agency-local, state, orfederal investigators-and charges the existing Identity TheftCoordinating Committee to consult with state and local lawenforcement agencies. Tougher state laws would not be preemptedunder H.R. 1581. “The need for a national system is readilyapparent, as identity theft is increasingly a crime that crossesstate lines.Although identity theft is a federal crime, most often,state and local law enforcement agencies are responsible forinvestigating and prosecuting the crimes. Yet law enforcement hasyet to fully recognize the serious nature of the problem or todevelop a coordinated investigative strategy,” she said. Cantwellconcluded, “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 controlof their lives.” [email protected]

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