About 400 activists will pour into town next week to protest predatory lending.

Led by ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the protesters plan a number of events designed to drum up support for legislation that would crack down on mortgage companies that make high-rate loans to inner-city residents.

Today the group brings Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee, Office of Thrift Supervision Director Ellen Seidman, Assistant Secretary for Housing William Apgar, and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to a church on Capitol Hill to hear from borrowers who have been victims of predatory lending.

This afternoon ACORN plans to protest a Salomon Smith Barney office here, arguing the investment bank is financing predatory lenders.


Harold Kane, director of security for Trans Union LLC, knew he was going to make waves at the National Summit on Identity Theft last week. "These are my views, not those of Trans Union," he said before launching a verbal assault on the banking industry."Some banks take a cavalier attitude toward fraud," Mr. Kane said. "They write it off without investigating, because it's cheaper."

Fraud is up 36% this year, he said, largely because cost-conscious banks have slashed their investigative staffs.

He also took banks to task for failing to verify the most basic information, such as whether customer address changes are valid. He cited a common scam in which someone steals a preapproved credit card application from a mailbox, completes and returns it then stalks the mailbox to intercept the card when it arrives.

Then it is a simple matter to call the credit card company and request an address change. The consumer does not know the card has been issued, since all bills go to the new address, and by the time the theft is discovered the intended card owner's debts can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Kane said banks can easily verify the validity of a new address, yet few do so. "This is how you get identity fraud," he said, "by changing addresses."

Financial felons can strike anyone. Just ask Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky. Speaking at the same identity-theft forum, Mr. Pitofsky recounted how his credit card number was stolen.

Mr. Pitofsky was stunned that pilferage of a federal official's card is possible. Pulling his credit card from his wallet, he pointed to it and said: "It says right here 'United States of America. For official use only.' "

Mr. Pitofsky said his situation was resolved relatively easily. "However," he added with a grin, "that may have had something to do with my being forced to reveal that I was chairman of the FTC."

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