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US Gov't ID theft plan coming today

Identity Theft Task Force to release findings

The US government will release its plan to combat identity theft in the US today.

After nearly a year's work, the President's Identity Theft Task Force will release its findings at a press event in the US Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) offices, the FTC said.

The task force was created by presidential order last May, just before the public disclosure of a data leak at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which put the personal information of 26.5 million veterans at risk. The task force is co-chaired by FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In September, the group issued its interim findings, recommending that US law be changed so that victims of ID theft would be compensated for the time it takes to set their credit records straight. Though consumers may not be found liable for any charges accrued as the result of identity theft, often they must spend long hours contacting creditors and credit rating agencies to set the record straight after a fraud has occurred.

The task force also recommended that the US adopt a nationwide police reporting system so that victims could more easily notify authorities of crimes.

Other recommendations included steps to reduce the government's exposure to data breaches and to improve its response when these crimes occur.

Though it was not mentioned in the interim report, the task force should also recommend that companies be more careful when screening credit applicants, said Beth Givens, the director of Privacy Rights Clearing House, a consumer advocacy group. "If the credit issuers and wireless phone companies spent a little bit more time looking for such anomalies, identity theft would be significantly reduced," she said.

According to Javelin Strategy, there were 8.9 million victims of identity theft in the US in 2006. That's fewer than the 10.1 million that the research firm counted in 2003, but it still accounts for about 4 percent of the adult population.

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