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Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act

Location: Washington, DC

IDENTITY THEFT PENALTY ENHANCEMENT ACT -- (House of Representatives - June 23, 2004)


Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be the author and sponsor of H.R. 1731, the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, and appreciate the support of the gentleman from Wisconsin (Chairman Sensenbrenner) and the fact that he advanced this important legislation. I would also like to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) for his support as the lead co-sponsor on this bill.

This legislation addresses the growing occurrences of identity theft. It will facilitate the prosecution of criminals who steal identities in order to commit felonies.

Felonies arising from identity theft are a very serious problem. Four years in a row, the Federal Trade Commission has reported identity theft as the number one consumer-reported complaint filed with the Commission. More than 200,000 identity theft complaints were reported in 2003.

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the mentions of ID theft are becoming all too commonplace. Just recently, last month, I believe, two brothers were convicted in Dallas of running an ID theft ring to buy luxury cars and obtain bank loans worth over $1 million, sometimes using the names of dead people. In Collin County, Texas, a former Texas driver's license bureau clerk pleaded guilty to selling ID cards to illegal immigrants using stolen information from immigration papers.

Just as concerning, the trafficking of identities aids terrorist crimes. Terrorists can move more freely in the United States with illicit IDs, credit cards, and other documentation. Insufficient legislation and prosecution has allowed a situation to arise where identities are easy to steal without fear of reprisal. Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that would-be terrorists may try to use stolen IDs, uniforms, and vehicles to enter sensitive facilities in
order to carry out an attack.

The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act gives prosecutors greater power in convicting and sentencing identity
theft. First, it creates a new separate crime of aggravated identity theft for any person who uses the identity of another
person to commit certain felonies. It provides a separate sentence of 2 years for most felonies and 5 years for terror-
related felonies is mandatory. It would run consecutively to any other sentences.

Second, the bill lessens the burden prosecutors face when seeking convictions of aggravated identity theft. Under this
bill, if a thief uses the stolen identity in connection with another Federal crime and the intent of the underlying Federal
crime is proven, the prosecutor may not need to prove the intent to use the false identity in a crime.

H.R. 1731 addresses the improper receipt that Social Security, Medicare, disability, veterans and other benefits by
misuse of illegally obtained Social Security numbers. We have a responsibility to protect the benefit programs of the
Social Security Administration from these identity thieves.

This legislation also addresses a prevalent mode of identity theft which is committed by insiders of organizations who
illegally use or transfer individuals' identifying information which has been entrusted to them. This is an increasing problem which we must protect all our consumers from. Last year Texas witnessed an example of this when a University of Texas student who was trusted with access to the University's database stole 55,000 Social Security numbers, including one of my staffers.

A recent report by researchers at Michigan State University estimates about half of all identity crimes were the result of personal information being stolen from corporate databases. This legislation directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to amend its guidelines to appropriately punish ID theft offenses involving the abuse of a position.

I urge my fellow colleagues to favorably support H.R. 1731. And, again, I thank the chairman for his support and the hard work of his staff on behalf of this legislation.

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