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Identity Theft

This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Identity theft has been a subject in the news recently. It is considered one of the top crimes in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that ten million Americans become victims of identity theft each year.

Identity thieves steal personal information. They collect Social Security numbers, banking records and telephone numbers. They use this information to request loans or get credit cards in the name of the victim.

Identity thieves spend a lot on goods or services without paying for them. F.T.C. officials estimate more than fifty-two thousand million dollars in goods and services were purchased last year through identity theft.

Victims of identity theft can spend years attempting to re-establish their financial history and good name. Some have been denied jobs or arrested for crimes in which they were not involved.

Identity thieves use several methods to get what they need. They may trick people into giving personal information over the telephone. They also may steal documents containing such information.

Activist groups have called for new laws to protect the public from identity theft. Recently, a committee of the United States Senate said it would hold hearings on the issue.

Two cases of identity theft helped the committee to call the hearings. Last month, Bank of America said it lost computer tapes containing personal information for more than one million federal employees. They include some Senators and members of the Defense Department. Bank of America says it deeply regrets the incident.

Earlier, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported that thieves stole about one hundred fifty thousand personal records from ChoicePoint Incorporated. The company sells Social Security numbers and credit information to other businesses. In two thousand two, a similar security violation reportedly affected about seven thousand people.

American lawmakers will consider plans to increase supervision of companies that collect personal information. Several plans have been proposed to help individuals whose personal information was stolen. Another proposal would let Americans halt any investigation into their financial history without their permission.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Gwen Outen.