Treasury to Beef Up Attack on I.D. Theft

WASHINGTON - Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers on Wednesday said the government would step up its efforts to prevent so-called identity theft because the Internet and on-line data bases are making the crimes easier to commit."Criminals are exploiting new technologies to make a significant profit from an old crime," Mr. Summers said in remarks kicking off the Treasury's two-day National Summit on Identity Theft. "As identities become more digital, it is much easier to assume an identity than ever before."

Identity thieves steal consumers' credit card account numbers, Social Security numbers, or other unique confidential information to tap their credit or impersonate them.

Mr. Summers unveiled four new initiatives, including a pilot program developed with Citigroup Inc. to spot identity theft, money laundering, and other crimes committed in electronic commerce. He pledged to widen the use of data bases created by the Secret Service and the financial services industry to track counterfeit checks and other abuses; better train state and local law enforcement officials to detect financial criminals; and hold conferences to stimulate more cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Though a federal law was enacted in 1998 that made it easier for law enforcement authorities to prosecute identity theft, the issue is receiving renewed attention because of recent, well-publicized hacker attacks on corporate Web sites and because of the debate surrounding new federal consumer privacy laws.

- Dean Anason

Lawmakers May Form Privacy Commission

WASHINGTON - Congress may create another bipartisan group to examine privacy concerns across a spectrum of industries, including financial services.Reps. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., and James P. Moran, D-Va., said Wednesday that they would introduce a bill this week that would create a 17-member, federally appointed Privacy Protection Commission. "The purpose of this commission is to find solutions that will aggressively protect individuals' privacy without enacting narrow-focused helter-skelter laws that could result in unintended harmful consequences," Rep. Hutchinson said. "This commission could help ensure that there is a coordinated approach to dealing with privacy concerns in America."

The commission, which would be appointed by the President and Congress, would examine how the financial services, high-tech, and medical industries, as well as the government itself, handle privacy.

"We want the commission to be relatively conservative in what legislative and regulatory recommendations it makes, if any," Rep. Moran said.

Other lawmakers interested in the privacy issue have formed the Congressional Privacy Caucus, which was founded by Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass.

Asked to compare the two groups, Rep. Moran said, "The Privacy Caucus has a political agenda. We're less interested in visibility."

The House Government Reform Committee is expected to hold hearings in late April on the bill to create the commission.

- Michele Heller

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