Computer Crime Research Center


ID theft crackdown

Date: September 06, 2005
Source: Business Week
By: Lee Walczak

Count Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), a feisty foe of Big Government, as a new believer in federal action to thwart identity theft. In advance of a Commerce Committee hearing last May on the ever-expanding assault on high-tech privacy, panel staffers did some Internet snooping and surprised Chairman Stevens with a dossier of sensitive data, including an offer to sell his Social Security number, his unlisted phone numbers, cell phone calling records, and reports on his daughter's property rentals. That's info online scammers could use to hijack a person's identity, a form of e-crime that is growing so pervasive that even laissez-faire Republicans want tighter controls.

"This is a very serious thing," Stevens says. His committee has already approved legislation that directs companies overseeing Americans' personal files to take stronger steps to secure them, and a raft of other Hill panels are crafting similar bills. The catalyst: a wave of hacker attacks and "lost" databases that have exposed millions of Americans to potential ripoffs. Sensing an issue with legs, the White House may weigh in with a Justice Dept. and Federal Trade Commission strike force to crack down on data theft.

Consumer advocates are hoping for new legislation by yearend, and financial industry lobbyists see tighter data controls as inevitable. But business reps are working hard to block costly compliance rules or new legal exposure. "Do we want a bill with all the bells and whistles? Probably not," says one banking lobbyist.
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