A Look at President Bush’s Track Record With Identity Theft

During his tenure as President, Bush has been criticized on many issues ranging from his handling of the economy to the War in Iraq. While the focal point of many policies has been the “war against terrorism,” many Americans are waging a war of a different sort. They have fallen victim to a fast- growing crime and are fighting an enemy that is well- equipped and full of surprises. The crime is identity theft and its menacing presence is more common today than at any point during the information age.

Facts about Identity Theft 2000-present:

In 2001, identity theft was directly involved in more than 40 percent of the consumer complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission, a figure that was approximately double the number received in the previous year.

Also reported 2001, there was an alarming increase in identity theft involving social security numbers. This crime had increased 500 percent in only four years.

In 2002, Identity theft crime was directly involved in losses totaling more than $ 1 billion annually for the bank industry. During the same period, individual identity theft victims lost an average of $ 18,000 each.

In spite of these dramatic increases, only one in three convicted identity theft thieves ever went to prison.

What laws has President Bush signed to reduce the instances of identity theft and its consequences?

One law that has been passed is The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, December 2003. The provisions of this law include:

* Requires merchants to delete majority of credit card numbers used to transact business online, leaving only the last five digits visible on all receipts

* Creates a National System of Fraud Detection, making it possible for consumers to report identity theft quickly and painlessly with one phone call, which then issues a nationwide alert.

* Entitles consumers to one free credit report annually from each of the 3 main credit reporting agencies.

Another law that helps punish purveyors of identity theft is The Identity Theft Penalty Act, July 15, 2004. This law:

* Identifies a new crime now known as “aggravated identity theft”

* Adds two years to all prison sentences for those criminals convicted of identity theft who used stolen credit cards or personal information in commission of the crime.

How are these laws going to discourage Identity Theft crimes?

According to Betsy Broder, assistant director for the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Planning and Information, “The law will make it more likely that thieves are prosecuted. A prosecutor is less likely to bring a case if they’re not going to get any serious jail time when they get a conviction.”

In May, 2006, another step was taken to prevent identity theft when an executive order was issued, creating the nation’s first identity theft task force. Chaired by the Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission Chair, this task force was designed to assist law enforcement in carrying out its investigations and prosecution of identity theft crimes and criminals. It also called on more public awareness and education on ways for individuals and businesses to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft crimes.

When the Identity Theft Penalty Act was signed into law, President Bush stated: “The crime of identity theft undermines the basic trust on which our economy depends. When a person takes out an insurance policy, or makes an online purchase, or opens a savings account, he or she must have confidence that personal financial information will be protected and treated with care. Identity theft harms not only its direct victims, but also many businesses and customers whose confidence is shaken. Like other forms of stealing, identity theft leaves the victim poor and feeling terribly violated.

But the losses are not measured only in dollars. An identity theft thief can steal the victim’s financial reputation. Running up bills on credit card accounts that the victim never knew existed, the criminal can quickly damage a person’s lifelong efforts to build and maintain a good credit rating. Repairing the damage can take a great deal of time, effort and money to correct. Government has a responsibility to protect citizens from these crimes and the grief and hassle they cause. It’s a solemn responsibility of our government. I want to thank the members of Congress for recognizing that responsibility.”

Many members of congress and representatives of various consumer interest groups have been pushing for laws to protect the public from identity theft and to severely punish perpetrators of this crime. Senator Dianne Feinstein has been a champion for reforms and tougher laws for identity theft criminals. She is fully aware of the problems caused by identity theft and she knows how easy it is to have your identity stolen. Feinstein said: “At a hearing, a police officer from Washington D.C. came forward and gave me a phony credit card that he’d gotten in my name. He showed how is easy it was. He’d gotten it that morning. I still have it in my desk.” Perhaps if more politicians had a reminder handed to them like Feinstein did, in the form of a credit card obtained in their name, they would pass more legislation to protect a consumer’s personal information and identity when conducting business online or simply when reading email messages.

One simple measure that would prevent part of the problem would be the outlawing of the use of Social Security Numbers as an identifier/personal id for everything from a Driver’s License, insurance policy, or medical record. The use of Social Security numbers is one of the primary reasons that identity theft is so prevalent in the United States. Likewise, the lack of a Social Security number is the reason identity theft doesn’t occur in other countries to the extent it does in the U.S. While consumers are encouraged to take the necessary steps to reduce the instances of identity theft, it is still important that the government also take an active role by passing laws with appropriate penalties for this crime and by taking preliminary actions to protect consumers and businesses from identity theft before it happens.

Lisa Carey is a contributing author for Identity Theft Secrets: prevention and protection. You can get tips on Identity theft protection, software, and monitoring your credit as well as learn more about the secrets used by identity thieves at the Identity Theft Secrets blog.

Do You Need Identity Theft Insurance? And What Is It Anyway?

With the serious nature of identity theft, many people are turning to identity theft insurance as a method of protecting themselves from the ramifications resulting from this crime. But what exactly is identity theft insurance? Do I really need it and how much will it cost me?

Identity theft insurance coverage varies in coverage, deductible and costs, just like many other forms of insurance. In most cases identity theft insurance will cover lost wages due to time taken off work to correct or repair damages due to identity theft. However, this coverage often carries a limit, in the approximate amount of $ 2,000.00. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates that victims spend on the average the equivalent of 22 work days trying to correct the damage from identity theft.

Identity theft insurance usually also provided benefits coverage for: attorney fees (which may or may not be necessary); notarization of documents, mailing, postage, supplies, copy costs, and phone bill charges which you may incur in an effort to correct the damage done to your credit and financial reputation.

Critics of identity theft insurance claim that it is “not worth the money,” (Consumer Reports magazine, as reported on MSNBC.com) or that it does not provide enough benefits. The concerns include: identity theft insurance does not provide reimbursement for money that is stolen or for identity theft expenses that occurred because of who the “thief” was. Most commonly a family member is the culprit in the case of identity theft and in that instance most insurance does not pay benefits. A word of caution by The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is that insurance “cannot protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft and does not cover direct monetary losses incurred as a result of identity theft.” Although, an unfair criticism, some conclude that the purchase of identity theft insurance may create a false sense of security, thus consumers may not be as careful with their credit and financial information.

The cost of identity theft insurance cost varies on both the coverage and how you obtain your insurance. Identity theft insurance can range from free to approximately $ 200.00 a year depending on how you have purchased it. There are three main ways to obtain identity theft insurance:

– As a provision in your homeowners or rental property insurance
– As a service of your credit card company, bank or lender
– By purchasing it as an individual–“stand alone” policy

The first step in obtaining identity theft insurance is to contact your banks, credit cards, lenders and insurance providers. Determine what coverage you have, how much it will costs to add additional coverage or to add identity theft to an existing policy and get details of the existing provision if it exist. You may need to purchase it as a “rider’ or extra to your existing policy much like purchasing flood or earthquake insurance – but not as expensive.

In some cases credit lender; such as the credit card company, mortgage or other loan provider, provide identity theft insurance. This coverage may be free or it may require a yearly service fee through the lender. For example, American Express provides some form of identity theft insurance to its card holders free of charge; MasterCard offers it through the specific banking partners and VISA may do a combination of both options. One word of caution, make sure that the identity theft insurance covers all your existing credit, not just the one card associated with the coverage. If it only covers one card, that what happens to the remainder of your credit?

One other option is to purchase your own “stand alone” policy through most of the major insurance providers such as Nationwide, State Farm, and/or Farmers Group. If you are not using a “major” player in the insurance field be sure that the company you are purchasing from is reputable. Sometimes these are the most dangers purchases of all as they may be an effort to gain your credit information for the sole purpose of identity theft. If your insurance provider bills this coverage monthly, be sure to multiply the monthly cost by 12 to determine the yearly costs. Most importantly make sure to keep your coverage current.

Another consideration when utilizing identity theft insurance is the level of deductible. Generally the range from $ 100 to $ 250, but some may be as high as $ 1,000. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that the average victim spends less than $ 1,500 to recover from identity theft so it important to do the math and determine if your insurance premium plus deductible is a good value as well as provides the right level of protection for you and your family.

Nothing can protect you completely. It is important to follow all the basic rules for protecting your credit, identity, and financial information like: keeping your personal and credit information in a safe place, not releasing the information to others and shredding all documents. But it is also good to know that you can also have for free or purchase additional assistance in the form of coverage and monetary support during one of the most difficult financial times in your life.

Finding out about damages to your identity and credit is just the beginning. After that begins the time consuming and often frustrating process of repairing the damage and correcting the mistakes. Identity theft insurance may be your choice to help you through this expensive and frustrating task. Make sure you know what options and coverage are available to you.

Lisa Carey is a contributing author for Identity Theft Secrets: prevention and protection. You can get tips on Identity theft protection, software, and monitoring your credit as well as learn more about the secrets used by identity thieves at the Identity Theft Secrets blog