In Light of Recent Data Breaches, a WA Resident Suggests Needed Legislative Reform to Protect Consumers
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The recent Congressional hearings concerning identity theft have resulted in Congress' attention to force disclosures. This is only a grain of sand into the problem. Please consider my letter below related to this issue. I have already sent this letter to Senators, Representatives, our Governor and various news media to get more attention and emphasize our need for serious action - not watered down piecemeal action.
The recent accounts of identity theft are a horror story. Since February 2005, reported incidents include the following:
ChoicePoint, Bank of America, Lexis Nexis, University of California, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Boston College, Chico State (CA), George Mason University, Las Vegas Department of Motor Vehicles, San Jose Medical Group, University of Mississippi among others. Some of these agencies have reported then updated their dire situation to a worse condition.
Reports of identity theft by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are 1,380 for 1999 and 246,570 for 2004 and rising for 2005. These incidents of identity theft are costing taxpayers, businesses and the government billions each year and rising.
Personal data can be bought right off the internet by anyone from information brokers. This proliferation of data sources, legal and illegal, is causing a hemorrhaging of personal data like a ruptured water main.
Several members of Congress are proposing legislation to ban the sale of Social Security numbers (SSNs) without individual permission. Let this be known: SSNs should not be sold or available for purchase - period. It should be unlawful to sell or buy SSNs.
Our society today offers too much credit, too fast and too loosely. There are not enough security checks and balances in our system and as an example, credit card companies enjoy offering tremendous amounts of credit and then go after those who cannot afford to pay back at 20 - 30% interest rates.
Lives and families are being devastated because of identity theft and the sheer cost and frustration to rebuild their identity and life.
So long as my name and my other private/personal information is out there being used for credit, identification, investigation, or whatever else is required, I have the right to view my data and have my data corrected, and refuse to have my data available if necessary. I do not care how much pressure the political action committees exert or businesses complain, my data is my data. If my data is misused, I have to spend my time and my money to fix my life. No one else will do that for me nor will they assist under current law conditions. I am really tired of hearing what I need to do to protect my data - because I cannot.
My recommendations for the Federal and State systems of government are as follows:
1. Identity theft must be illegal and a federal, state and local crime punishable by SEVERE penalty. Identity theft investigation must be given priority. A police report must be required and issued to the victim at no cost.
2. The Federal government must make available through the news media, the identity of all information brokers, with their name, mailing address, electronic addresses and telephone numbers provided. All information brokers that store, manipulate, and provide Social Security numbers and other significant personal information must be registered with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
3. Require information brokers or data miners to protect consumers' personal identification and personal data following mandatory federal standards. Issues that must be addressed include data and information security, screening, transfer and fraud or identity theft detection. In addition, consumers must be able to view and correct information held about them at no cost.
4. Require Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) to be more responsive to the obtaining, review and correction of individual credit reports. There must be no payment or charge for this service.
5. Grant consumers the right to place a security freeze on their credit report and lift the freeze with minimum personal effort. There must be no payment or charge for this service.
6. Grant consumers the right to place a seven year fraud alert on their credit report when a compromise has been detected or suspected. The alert must be easily removable with minimum personal effort. There must be no payment or charge for this service.
7. Make retail sellers verify credit use. Make it a crime to not verify the identification of buyers. All businesses must tell anyone when sensitive data or information, electronic or paper, has been compromised - regardless of how it was compromised. All consumers must be told exactly what data or information was released.
8. The Federal government must make the Social Security number insignificant to identity theft. Until this requirement is established, the sale or purchase of Social Security numbers must be unlawful.
9. Identity theft must be declared a crime and illegal in all federal, state and local jurisdictions. Make identity theft deductible on Federal and State income tax returns. The IRS should update Publication 547, "Causalities, Disasters, and Thefts" to include identity theft and make wide notice of its availability to all taxpayers. In addition, taxpayers should be able to deduct $75.00 per hour for time spent on fixing their lives.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to address this situation affecting so many people in these United States.
Sincerely, Ed from Washington state
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