WASHINGTON, DC (January 22, 2004) - In response to today's report released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announcing that identity theft topped the list of consumer complaints filed with FTC for the fourth year in a row, Rep. Schiff renewed his call for stricter identity theft penalties.
"Identity theft is a serious problem in this country," Rep. Schiff said today. "This is not only an enormous problem for consumers, who can spend years trying to repair the damage caused by an identity theft, but if foreign terrorists steal someone's identity, they can move freely about the country with fraudulent credit cards, illicit passports or other documentation. Current law is inadequate. We must impose stricter penalties for identity theft and protect consumers and our nation from this danger."
The FTC report indicates that 214,905 cases of identity theft were reported in 2003, an increase from the 161,836 complaints reported in 2002 and the 86,212 complaints reported in 2001. Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas, Florida, and New York are ranked as the top six states in the number of per capita victims of identity theft. Los Angeles was the top California identity theft victim location with 3,438 victims.
To combat this serious problem, Rep. Schiff and Rep. John Carter introduced H.R. 1731, the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act in April 2003. This legislation has already passed the U.S. Senate in identical form - introduced Senator Dianne Feinstein - and will facilitate the prosecution of criminals who steal identities in order to commit felonies.
The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act gives prosecutors greater power in convicting and sentencing an identity thief by creating a new and separate crime of "aggravated identity theft" for any person who uses the identity of another person to commit certain felonies. A separate sentence of two years for most felonies and five years for terror-related felonies is mandatory and would run consecutively to other sentences. The bill also amends existing law to prohibit, not just the "transfer or use" of someone else's identity information, but also the possession of such information with the requisite criminal intent.
Rep. Schiff is the co-founder of the Democratic Study Group on National Security and a member of both the House Judiciary and International Relations Committees. He represents California's 29th Congressional District, including the communities of Pasadena, Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, East Pasadena, East San Gabriel, Glendale, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Temple City.