Report: Center needed to oversee identity theft efforts

The federal government should establish a National Identity Theft Law Enforcement Center to coordinate efforts among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, according to a report from the President’s Identity Theft Task Force.

The center would allow authorities, regulatory agencies and the private sector to consolidate, analyze and share identity theft information and practices. The Justice Department should lead the group, which would also include representatives from the FBI, Secret Service, Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General, Federal Trade Commission and  U.S. Postal Service, according to the task force.

The recommendation was included in a long-awaited 120-page report released April 23 by the task force.

“We need to do more to educate the American public of the dangers of identity theft,” said Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, speaking at a press conference with Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. Gonzalez and Majoras are co-chairs for the task force.

Industry representatives praised the idea of creating a law enforcement center, saying that as criminals get organized with their efforts to steal data, authorities need to share information to fight back.

“[Identity thieves are] very sophisticated in how they are interacting with each other and forming [rings],” said Joni Swedlund, principal at Deloitte. “From the law enforcement side…we don’t have the same freedom for sharing information and [working collaboratively].”

In addition to the law enforcement center, the report contains 31 categories of specific recommendations including:

  • Reduce the use of Social Security numbers by federal agencies. 
  • Establish national standards for protecting personal data in the private sector.
  • Create a broad awareness and outreach program to inform consumers.
  • Boost identity theft and aggravated identity theft statutes, and attach a wider variety of crimes for which offenders would receive a 2-year mandatory jail sentence.
  • Amend existing statutes to allow federal prosecutors to charge people who use malicious spyware and malware.

The Identity Theft Task Force was formed in May 2006 to craft a strategic plan to focus government efforts against identity theft. The task force consists of the heads of a variety of federal agencies.

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