Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to thank both you and Ranking Member Sarbanes for agreeing to hold this hearing on identity theft and its relationship to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Identity theft is frequently cited as the fastest growing crime in the nation. However, precise statistics are not available to properly gauge the full extent of the problem since an estimated forty percent of identity theft cases are believed to involve friends or family members and are never reported.
Identity theft is a problem that has grown increasingly more prevalent in the past few years. According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft was the top consumer complaint received last year, with the rate of complaints and inquiries increasing at an alarming rate with the widespread use of Internet technology. There are currently over 1,700 cases of stolen identity per week that are being reported.
Fighting fraud and protecting the security of personal information is a topic that unites financial institutions and consumers: each group is harmed by the fraudulent use of personal information. Financial institutions are the victims of fraud because the financial institution is usually liable for any losses suffered as a result of the fraud. Consumers obviously suffer unnecessary inconvenience and insecurity as a result of fraud, and they can be exposed to additional crimes, such as identity theft. Furthermore, at least a portion of financial institutions' fraud losses can be expected to be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. There can be no doubt that when fraud is committed, everyone loses.
With the December 31 expiration of important provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, we have the responsibility to examine problems within the system that have been harming both consumers and financial institutions. It is my hope that in addition to reauthorizing the Fair Credit Reporting Act we can take strong steps towards combating and preventing identity theft.
I would like to thank our witnesses for taking the time to join us here today to discuss these issues, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the problem of identity theft in our work to reauthorize the Fair Credit Reporting Act this year.