I first want to thank Senator Bennett for calling this hearing today. Identity theft is a costly nightmare for a growing number of individuals and Senator Bennett has led the effort to halt the criminals who perpetrate this insidious and destructive type of fraud.
A person who has his or her identity stolen has to deal with a mountain of debt incurred by someone else. By the time the victim figures out what has happened, criminals have used his or her good credit to apply for credit cards, purchase automobiles or even apply for a home mortgage.
Victims of identity theft lose more than money; they lose their good name and professional reputation. Identity theft is a deeply personal violation which can result in irreparable damage to a person's credit rating and personal privacy. For years after the crime, victims of identity theft are often unable to purchase a home or maintain credit accounts.
I understand that we have several such victims here with us today. I would especially like to recognize Mr. Wayne Matus from the State of New York. Mr. Matus, a partner in a Manhattan law firm, fell victim to an identity theft apparently because his social security number was stolen from the mail. Using this single piece of information, the criminals were able to discover all sorts of personal data about Mr. Matus, and they used it to apply for credit cards and a home mortgage.
For a variety of reasons, law enforcement officials have not aggressively pursued criminals like the ones who victimized Mr. Matus. Local police are restricted in what they can do because identity theft is a crime that takes place beyond municipal boundaries. Seldom do the criminal and victim reside in the same jurisdiction.
The Secret Service and the FBI have also had a difficult time in cracking down on identity theft. Despite the tragic personal consequences, most identity theft cases result in a few thousand dollars of losses. While these losses are immensely significant to the individual victims of these crimes, most federal prosecutors do not have the resources to pursue cases that result in losses less than $501,000. Consequently, these criminals frequently go unpunished.
We must do better than this. Without a significant deterrent, these criminals will continue to act with impunity. Eventually, the reliability of the consumer credit system could be undermined.
Working with Senator Bennett and the Banking
Committee, we must curb the activities of these criminals
who commit identity theft. We owe the victims no less.
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