Federal Government Looks to Curb Rampant Data Breaches, Related Identity Theft

By Denise Johnson | November 12, 2015

The California-based Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit resource for victims of identity theft reports nearly 20,000 calls a year due to the crime, according to Eva Velasquez, president and CEO.

Financial identity theft is the most common crime the center works with though government documents and benefits fraud is growing significantly, she said.

“That’s primarily tax identity theft, but it can also be when someone is using your identity to apply for government benefits like unemployment, perhaps Medicaid, those types of things,” said Velasquez.

Sometimes there is no way to know when personal information has been compromised, she said. Victims will find out when there’s a financial turn in their life.

“They generally are trying to move forward in some way in their life. Maybe it’s applying for a loan, trying to get a job, employment,” said Velasquez.

She explained the center often hears from victims who have either lost or had their cell phones stolen or maybe had a car burglary.

“Maybe it was a computer, maybe a thumb drive has been stolen out of their vehicle. They know they’re at an increased risk,” said Velasquez.

As for the center’s callers, oftentimes, one call is all that is needed to beginning a remediation plan.

“Other times they need more help going step by step. They can call back as many times as they like,” she said.

The center also helps victims through a new app, ID Theft Help, launched this year that offers a live chat.

Despite the crime’s growth, there is hope.

The Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 last month.

According to the American Insurance Association, a property/casualty insurance trade organization, CISA would impose legal protections on what information is permissible to share while protecting consumer privacy. It also calls for better sharing of information surrounding cyber threats between the federal government and private industries, allowing both to “defend against and mitigate malicious cyber threats.”

The bill needs to merge with the House of Representatives version before heading to the president for approval.

“CISA is an essential tool for coordinating information sharing that can be used to prevent and mitigate a cyberattack,” said Angela Gleason, associate counsel for the American Insurance Association (AIA), who issued a statement following the Senate’s passage of the bill. “The protection of consumer information is of the upmost concern for insurers. CISA correctly balances the sharing of crucial threat information while protecting the privacy of consumer personal and financial information.”

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