Department of Justice Proposes Update to Identity Theft Laws
WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice today submitted to Congress new proposed legislation that seeks to update and improve current laws aimed at protecting Americans from the increasingly sophisticated crime of identity theft.
The proposed bill, titled the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2007, was a significant recommendation included in the final strategic plan from the President’s Task Force on Identity Theft released in April 2007. The strategic plan was the result of an unprecedented federal effort to formulate a comprehensive and fully coordinated plan to attack identity theft at all levels in the public and private sectors.
Among other provisions, the proposed legislation seeks to ensure that victims of identity theft can recover the value of the time lost attempting to repair damage inflicted by identity theft. Under current law, restitution to victims from convicted thieves is available only for the direct financial costs of identity theft offenses.
“Identity theft has impacted the lives of millions in the United States, and its perpetrators are constantly inventing new ways to commit their crimes,” said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. “This proposed legislation is a firm step in the right direction in updating our identity theft laws to meet the needs of investigators and prosecutors who are working daily to punish identity thieves, and help victims put their lives back together.”
The new legislation would also close gaps in the current identity theft, and aggravated identity theft statutes. Both of these statutes are limited to stealing the identity of an individual, and do not specifically address the misuses of identification of a corporation or organization. The proposed legislation would amend the identity theft and aggravated identity theft statutes to ensure that identity thieves who steal information belonging to corporations and organizations can be prosecuted, and would add several new crimes to the list of aggravated identity theft offenses.
“These new tools would enhance criminal enforcers’ ability to crack down on malicious identity thieves and help victims recover,” said Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. “Each element of the Identity Theft Task Force’s recommendations improves our ability to reduce crime, assist victims, and raise awareness.”
Additional provisions in the proposed legislation include:
Ensuring that federal law enforcement has jurisdiction over the theft of sensitive identity information by closing a loophole in the current statute. Under the proposed Act, federal jurisdiction could be obtained if the victim computer is used in interstate or foreign commerce, the same standard used in other computer hacking offenses.
Assuring that federal law appropriately penalizes identity thieves for the use of malicious spyware and keyloggers; tools used to look in on private computers, and record key strokes.
Expanding the scope of the “cyber extortion” provision so that it covers such crimes as threats to steal or corrupt data on a victim’s computer.
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 is comprised of 17 federal agencies and departments. The Task Force’s strategic plan, released in April 2007, can be found at http://www.idtheft.gov.
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