Gallegly Introduces Credit Agencies Identity Theft Responsibilities Act
Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties) today introduced the Credit Agencies Identity Theft Responsibilities Act, which would require credit reporting agencies to report certain irregularities in consumer credit reports to the Secret Service.
"Identity theft has become an epidemic across the United States, claiming more than 10 million victims last year alone," Gallegly said. "Victims of identity theft find they are turned down for insurance or have to pay higher rates, they've been the subject of a civil suit or judgment, or they've been the subject of a criminal investigation because of a crime committed by the thief."
About two-thirds of households experiencing identity theft reported some type of monetary loss. The average loss is $1,290.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, credit card fraud is the most common form of identity theft, at 25 percent, followed by utilities/phone fraud and bank fraud at 16 percent, and employment fraud at 14 percent.
As a result of identity theft, about 1 in 6 victimized households paid higher interest rates and 1 in 9 households were denied phone or utility service.
Three credit reporting agencies operate in the United StatesEquifax, TransUnion, and Experian. The three receive thousands of consumer credit reports daily, which make them a prime candidate for identifying possible cases of identity theft.
However, the agencies only take action when they believe fraudulent actions have hurt a consumer's credit. But even then, they do not report any possible cases of identity theft to the proper authorities. They merely notify the individual consumer of possible fraud.
For example, credit reporting agencies can search their database by Social Security number, yet, even when they find multiple names connected with a Social Security number, they do nothing.
The irregularities triggering actions in Gallegly's bill are:
* three or more names associated with a Social Security number;
* three or more home addresses associated with the name of any consumer within a one-year period; or,
* more than one date of birth associated with the name of a consumer or Social Security number.
The Secret Service would then be required to review the cases and take appropriate action, which includes referring cases to the Attorney General for prosecution.
The Secret Service would also be responsible for referring any possible immigration cases to the Department of Homeland Security and any possible terrorism risks to the FBI.
Any credit reporting agency employees found in violation would be subject to a maximum two-year prison sentence and fine.