San Diego, CA. The Federal Trade Commission is close to proposing rules under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) regarding further definition of the terms identity theft identity theft report, and the appropriate proof of identity needed by consumers to block fraudulent trade lines in their consumer reports, place or remove fraud or active duty alerts, or obtain a file disclosure containing a truncated Social Security number under certain circumstances.
FACTA, which was enacted on December 4, 2003, and amends the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), gives identity theft victims new rights to place fraud alerts on their credit reports and work with creditors and credit bureaus to block negative information appearing in their credit files as a result of identity theft. These new rules can't come fast enough.
According to a recent online study conducted by InsightExpress.com, Americans are very concerned about identity theft and looking for more guidance (mainly from banks, credit unions and credit card issuers) on how they should protect themselves.
"Three out of five consumers are telling us that banks are not doing enough to educate them on how to protect against identity theft, as most are learning about it through television commercials and/or news reports," said Lee Smith, president and chief operating officer of InsightExpress.
"Credit card issuers and primary banks stand a better chance of capturing and retaining customers if they take a more proactive approach in educating and protecting consumers against the threat."
The study found that 15% of Americans have been a victims of identity theft with one-third having had a friend or family member victimized. The survey also found that 42% of Americans have a higher level of concern over the possibility of identity theft this year than last, while almost three out of five, 59% are actively taking measures to protect themselves.
A majority of Americans, 85%, are concerned that identity theft could happen to them, and a major source of concern is credit card purchases, the study found. Americans say the online purchasing environment carries the greatest risk of identity theft, 37%, followed by telephone purchases, 35%, and in-person purchases, 10%.
Some of the measures Americans are taking to protect themselves, according to InsightExpress, are not giving out their social security number, shedding or destroying bank documents, creating passwords containing letters and numbers, avoiding buying or making donations over the phone and only making online purchases from reputable websites.
In terms of liabilities, almost half, about 48%, expect that they would be at least partially responsible for charges made on their credit card should they become a victim. Almost three out of five, 58%, say the person who stole the credit card is responsible, followed by the institution who issues the card, 33%, the institution who approves the credit card charge, 29%, and the merchants, 26%, according to InsightExpress.
An identity theft risk study by Rutgers University has preliminary data to date indicating that checking a credit report is the least frequently performed practice and that there is no difference between respondents from states that mandate free credit reports currently and others. Folks involved with the study caution that the findings come from a small convenience sample of Web users and can't be widely generalized to the U.S. population as a whole.
Either way it seems that there is a lot of education to be done about credit reports and how to get them free under FACTA.
Is it identity theft or unauthorized use of a credit card?
The Commission proposes that identity theft be defined as a fraud which is committed or attempted, using a person's identifying information without lawful authority and that identifying information have the same meaning as the criminal statute's means of identification. Consumers need to use identity theft reports to obtain an extended fraud alert on their credit file and to block negative information resulting from identity theft from appearing in their credit files. In other words if someone just uses a credit card account to make an unauthorized purchase, and does not attempt to create an identity for themselves using your name, it is not going to be considered identity theft but rather fraud.
To prevent misuse of identity theft reports for credit repair scams, the FTC proposes to add two elements to the definition of identity theft report. First, the proposal would require that consumers allege the identity theft as specifically as possible, and second, would allow credit bureaus or creditors to request, within reasonable bounds, additional information or documentation to help them determine if identity theft actually occurred.
Finally, it addresses what constitutes appropriate proof of identity to block a fraudulent trade line, place or remove a fraud alert, or obtain a file disclosure containing a truncated Social Security number.
The proposed rule would require credit bureaus to develop reasonable requirements to ensure that consumers are matched with their files and to adjust what information is requested to prevent identifiable risks of harm. The FTC suggests, using two examples, that the requirements for a file match may entail full name, full address, full Social Security number, and/or date of birth, and for additional proof of identity, copies of government-issued identification documents, utility bills, and other current authentication methods such as answering questions only the consumer would know.
A great resource for determining one's risk to becoming a victim of identity theft is the quick Identity Theft Risk Assessment Quiz put online by the Cooperative Extension at Rutgers University. It is 20 questions plus some demographic data questions. The quiz gives a quick score and suggestions for improving things.
Try it out at: http://www.rce.rutgers.edu/money/identitytheft/default.html
The ICFE s Credit Report Reviewer Certification Program 2004 on the new FACTA law, has a major focus on identity theft, including prevention, detection and correction and also offers a certificate as an Identity Theft Prevention Specialist.