Identity Theft: Trends and Issues
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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In the wake of the economic downturn, policymakers are increasingly concerned with securing the economic health of the United States-including combating those crimes that threaten to further undermine the nations financial stability. Identity theft is one such crime. It is the fastest growing type of fraud in the United States in 2009 about 11.1 million Americans were reportedly victims of identity theft, an increase of about 12 from the number of cases in 2008. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission FTC estimates that it costs consumers about 50 billion annually. Identity theft is often committed to facilitate other crimes such as credit card fraud, document fraud, or employment fraud, which in turn can affect not only the nations economy but its security. Consequently, in securing the nation and its economic health, policymakers are also tasked with reducing identity theft and its impact. Congress continues to debate the federal governments role in 1 preventing identity theft and its related crimes, 2 mitigating the potential effects of identity theft after it occurs, and 3 providing the most effective tools to investigate and prosecute identity thieves. With respect to preventing identity theft, one issue concerning policymakers is the prevalence of personally identifiable informationand in particular, the prevalence of social security numbers SSNsin both the private and public sectors. One policy option to reduce their prevalence may involve restricting the use of SSNs on government-issued documents such as Medicare identification cards. Another option could entail providing federal agencies with increased regulatory authority to curb the prevalence of SSN use in the private sector. In debating policies to mitigate the effects of identity theft, one option Congress may consider is whether to strengthen data breach notification requirements.
- Administration and Management