Schiff, Chabot, Emanuel, Murphy Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Fight Identity Theft and Cyber Crime

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

Schiff, Chabot, Emanuel, Murphy Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Fight Identity Theft and Cyber Crime

Washington, D.C. – Today, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act, which would take strong steps to combat cyber crime and protect data security.  The measure would provide federal prosecutors with important new tools to help combat identity theft and cyber crime. Additionally, it would also give victims of identity theft the ability to seek restitution for the loss of time and money spent restoring credit and remedying the harms of stolen identity.  Reps. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) are original cosponsors.   

“Criminals are increasingly using new technologies to prey upon their victims,” Schiff said.  “As they adapt to these new opportunities to defraud consumers, we must develop better ways to track down the perpetrators and put them away.  This legislation will help protect American consumers and businesses from the costly effects of cyber crime and identity theft.”

“Cyber-criminals are becoming increasingly more tech-savy and aggressive, which raises the stakes for consumers and businesses,” said Congressman Steve Chabot. “Statistics released by the FBI and industry experts reveal that as many as 10 million computers are under the control of someone other than the owner. This is a serious problem and current law must be updated so we can deal with the sophistication of these crimes.”

This measure introduced today in the House is the companion measure to Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) and Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act, which passed the Senate unanimously late last year. 

The measure also has the support of the Department of Justice, the Secret Service, and has broad support from industry and consumer groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, the Business Software Alliance, the Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of American, and the AARP.

“We need to protect Americans at work, at home, and online,” said Emanuel.  “Cyber criminals and identity thieves are using new online tools to prey on unsuspecting Americans so we need to provide law enforcement with additional tools to fight back and protect our identities and data.”

“As more and more Americans find convenience in doing their banking, shopping, and every day tasks online, identity theft is becoming a more common crime.  This legislation will give our law enforcement officials the tools they need to combat criminals who see an opportunity to prey on individuals and businesses in our increasingly wired existence.”

The Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act would:

  • Give victims of identity theft the ability to seek restitution for the loss of time and money spent restoring credit and remedying the harms of identity theft; 
  • Ensure that identity thieves who impersonate businesses in order to steal sensitive personal data can be prosecuted under federal identity theft laws.  Current law only provides for prosecution of impersonating an individual for the purposes of committing identity theft.
  • Enable prosecution of those who steal personal information from a computer even when the victim’s computer is located in the same state as the thief’s computer.  Under current law, federal courts only have jurisdiction if the thief uses interstate communication to access the victim’s computer; 
  • Eliminate the requirement that damage to a victim’s computer exceed $5,000 before charges can be brought for unauthorized access to a computer.  This provision protects innocent actors while categorizing violations resulting in less than $5,000 in damage as misdemeanors; 
  • Make it a felony to employ spyware or keyloggers to damage ten or more computers regardless of the aggregate amount of damage caused, ensuring that the most egregious identity thieves will not escape with a minimal, or no, sentence; 
  • Make it a crime to threaten to steal or release information from a computer.  Current law only permits the prosecution of those who seek to extort companies or government agencies by explicitly threatening to shut down or damage a computer.  Violators of this provision will be subject to a criminal fine and up to five years in prison; and    
  • Add the remedies of civil and criminal forfeiture to the arsenal of tools available to federal prosecutors to combat cyber crime, and mandate that the U.S. Sentencing Commission review and update its guidelines for identity theft and other cyber crime offenses.

Reps. Schiff and Chabot have long fought to improve cyber security. This is the second straight Congress they have teamed-up to introduce comprehensive data privacy legislation. In 2006 they introduced the Cyber-Security Enhancement Act in 2006.