Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing on the serious national problem of identity theft. This is an issue of concern on both sides of the aisle. A number of senators have expressed interest in making legislative improvements in this area, including Senators Bennett, Bunning, Cantwell, Daschle, Feinstein, and Leahy, all of whom have been leaders in the effort to combat identity theft.
Identity theft has become an increasing problem in recent years. Business Week recently stated that "identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the U.S." ["To Catch an Identity Thief," March 31, 2003.] The Federal Trade Commission reported that in 2002, they received 380,103 consumer fraud complaints, of which 43% (161, 819) were about identity theft. Identity theft complaints far exceeded complaints about other types of consumer fraud at the FTC. The number of identity theft complaints in 2002 was 88% more than the FTC received in 2001 (86,198 complaints received).
Americans have strong concerns about protecting their confidential information. Honest citizens who are victims of identity theft incur a high cost in money, time, anxiety and effort to correct and restore their spoiled credit histories and good names.
I look forward to hearing the testimony of the witnesses as to the current state of identity fraud, ongoing enforcement efforts and whether sanctions are sufficient to deter misconduct, and proposals to reduce the incidence of and damage to honest consumers that results from identity theft.