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The Government Struggle to Combat Identity Theft

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I. Introduction

Over the last few decades, the world has witnessed a global revolution, unleashed by technological innovations and catalyzed by market forces. Yet even as technology has made the world more efficient, it has also made the world vulnerable to threats posed by malicious actors. These actors have perpetrated innumerable crimes and the government struggles to combat these modern criminals. One threat stands out as particularly frightening: identity theft. The ability of a criminal to completely co-opt the identity of another person strikes at the very core of individuality. No longer can the victim be assured that his place in the world is singular and unique, dependent on his actions alone; rather, he is subject to sudden and dramatic changes, all at the behest of an actor who he – in all likelihood – does not even know. Noting the progressing trends of identify theft crimes in the last few years, Congress has begun to combat ID theft, hoping to drive it to extinction. Yet the progress so far is discouraging. Modern statutes suffer the weakness of inadequacy, often relying upon traditional methods to engage a new and fundamentally different form of crime. The same problem afflicts most of the legislative proposals currently under Congressional consideration. And to make matters even worse, the few proposed bills that might be effective face a likely death at the hands of a Republican dominated Congress. Ultimately, Congress lacks the innovation and understanding to combat identity theft, leading to incoherent policies that do little to curb this new epidemic.

II. A Short History

Before identify theft laws were passed, Congress could only rely on fraud statutes to prosecute identity thieves. Before ...

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15 Identity Theft Resource Center. Foley, Linda. Refocusing the Fight Against Identity Theft. 2003. Found at: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/refocusing.shtml

16 United States. Internet False Identification Act of 2000.

17 Frelinghuysen, Representative Rodney. Proposed Bill. Online Privacy Protection Act. 2003.

18 Dianne Feinstein, Senator Dianne. Proposed Bill. Identity Theft Prevention Act. 2003. Found at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:S.223:

19 Kotadia, Munir. “Whois Database ‘Contributes to Identity Theft.’” ZDNet UK, 6 November 2003. Found at: http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/security/0,39020375,39117667,00.htm

20 Barnes, Cecily. “Internet Contributes to Rise of Identity Theft, FTC Says.” CNET News.com, 30 August 2000. Found at: http://news.com.com/2100-1023-245173.html?legacy=cnet

21 Frelinghuysen. Online Privacy Protection Act.

22 Ibid.
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