Identity Theft


2005-3-3

This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Identity theft has been a subject in the news recently. It isconsidered one of the top crimes in the United States. The FederalTrade Commission estimates that ten million Americans become victimsof identity theft each year.

Identity thieves steal personal information. They collect SocialSecurity numbers, banking records and telephone numbers. They usethis information to request loans or get credit cards in the name ofthe victim.

Identity thieves spend a lot on goods or services without payingfor them. F.T.C. officials estimate more than fifty-two thousandmillion dollars in goods and services were purchased last yearthrough identity theft.

Victims of identity theft can spend years attempting tore-establish their financial history and good name. Some have beendenied jobs or arrested for crimes in which they were not involved.

Identity thieves use several methods to get what they need. Theymay trick people into giving personal information over thetelephone. They also may steal documents containing suchinformation.

Activist groups have called for new laws to protect the publicfrom identity theft. Recently, a committee of the United StatesSenate said it would hold hearings on the issue.

Two cases of identity theft helped the committee to call thehearings. Last month, Bank of America said it lost computer tapescontaining personal information for more than one million federalemployees. They include some Senators and members of the DefenseDepartment. Bank of America says it deeply regrets the incident.

Earlier, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported that thievesstole about one hundred fifty thousand personal records fromChoicePoint Incorporated. The company sells Social Security numbersand credit information to other businesses. In two thousand two, asimilar security violation reportedly affected about seven thousandpeople.

American lawmakers will consider plans to increase supervision ofcompanies that collect personal information. Several plans have beenproposed to help individuals whose personal information was stolen.Another proposal would let Americans halt any investigation intotheir financial history without their permission.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by JillMoss. This is Gwen Outen.