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DoJ Sends ID Theft Bill to Congress

The Bush administration sent proposed legislation to Congress today that aims to update and improve federal identity theft laws. The proposal is part of the recommendations of the president's Identity Theft Task Force.

The Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2007 would allow ID theft victims to recover the value of the time lost attempting to repair damage caused by identity theft. Currently, victim restitution is limited to direct financial losses.

The bill would also expand the existing identity theft and aggravated identity theft statutes to include penalties for thieves who steal information from corporations and organizations. Both statutes now only deal with the identity theft of an individual.

In addition, provisions in the legislation increase the penalties for ID thieves who use malicious spyware and keystroke loggers to commit their crimes. The bill also expands the scope of "cyber extortion" to cover crimes such as threats to steal or corrupt data on a computer.

"This proposed legislation is a firm step in the right direction in updating our identity theft laws to meet the needs of investigators and prosecutors who are working daily to punish identity thieves, and help victims put their lives back together," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in a statement.

Deborah Platt Majoras, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission and co-chair of the president's Identity Theft Task Force with Gonzales, said the bill would enhance law enforcement's ability to crack down on identity theft.

"Each element of the Identity Theft Task Force's recommendations improves our ability to reduce crime, assist victims and raise awareness," Majoras said.

Bush formed his task force a year ago to help coordinate the efforts of the 13 governmental agencies involved with identity theft. In May, the group called for national standards to be established for the safeguarding of personal data by the private sector and breach-notification standards for data theft that pose a "significant" risk of identity theft.

"This new plan represents an important step forward in America's effort to fight back against identity theft," Gonzales said when the report was released. "We have acknowledged that this is not a new problem and our report builds upon many years of effort by our federal, state and local partners, as well as the private sector and non-profit organizations."