White House identity task force outlines strategic plan

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras yesterday announced the completion of President Bush’s Identity Theft Task Force’s strategic plan to combat identity theft.

The plan is the result of an unprecedented federal effort to come up with a comprehensive and fully coordinated response to the widespread and destructive crime of identity theft.

It focuses on ways to improve criminal prosecutions of identity theft; enhance data protection for sensitive consumer information maintained by the public and private sectors and consumers; provide comprehensive and effective guidance for consumers and the business community; and improve recovery and assistance for consumers.

“Identity theft is a crime that goes far beyond the loss of money or property,” Mr. Gonzales said in a statement.

“It is a personal invasion, done in secret, that can rob innocent men and women of their good names. The strategic plan we are releasing today is part of a comprehensive effort to fight this crime, protect consumers and help victims put their lives back together.”

Although much has been done to combat identity theft, the specific recommendations outlined in the strategic plan – from broad policy changes to small steps – are necessary to wage a more effective fight against identity theft and reduce its damage.

Following are highlights of the recommendations.

-Reduce the unnecessary use of Social Security numbers – the most valuable commodity for identity theft – by federal agencies.

-Establish national standards that require private-sector entities to safeguard personal data they compile and maintain and to provide notice to consumers when a breach occurs that poses a significant risk of identity theft.

-Implement a broad, sustained awareness campaign by federal agencies to educate consumers, the private sector and the public sector on methods to deter, detect and defend against identity theft.

-Create a National Identity Theft Law Enforcement Center to allow law enforcement agencies to coordinate their efforts and information more efficiently and investigate and prosecute identity thieves more effectively.

The task force’s recommendations also include several legislative proposals designed to fill the gaps in current laws criminalizing the acts of many identity thieves and ensure that victims can recover the value of the time lost attempting to repair damage inflicted by identity theft.

The plan was released at an authentication workshop that followed an earlier recommendation of the task force.

In addition to the release of the plan, a Web site has been launched at www.idtheft.gov, which contains the full strategic plan and will eventually serve as clearinghouse for educational resources for consumers, businesses and law enforcement on ways to prevent and detect identity theft and help victims recover.

The Identity Theft Task Force, co-chaired by the attorney general and the FTC chairman, was established by Executive Order of the President on May 10, 2006, and now comprises 17 federal agencies and departments.

The task force will continue its work over the coming months and play a central role in the implementation of the plan.

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