The President’s Identity Theft Task Force rolled out a strategic plan this week, outlining a number of recommendations for increased federal prevention of identity theft.

Established a year ago, the task force is co-chaired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras. The Securities and Exchange Commission is among the 17 federal agencies and departments the group counts among its members.

At a macro level, the plan focuses on ways to improve the effectiveness of criminal prosecutions of identity theft; to enhance data protection for sensitive consumer information maintained by the public sector, private sector and consumers; to provide more comprehensive and effective guidance for consumers and the business community; and to improve recovery and assistance for consumers.

More specifically, the group recommended that Congress expand existing laws to make some identity thieves face a mandatory two-year sentence, and empower federal prosecutors to charge those who use spyware, which can harvest personal data from a user's computer.

The task force also said that there should be standards for the private sector outlining how to safeguard personal data, as well as notification requirements for when a breach occurs.

The task force also recommended:

  • Reviewing, at the state and federal level, the use of Social Security numbers in consumer records;
  • Implementing a federal public-awareness campaign to educate consumers, the private sector and the public sector on methods to deter, detect and defend against identity theft; and,
  • Creating a National Identity Theft Law Enforcement Center to allow law enforcement agencies to coordinate their efforts and information more efficiently.

In addition to the strategic plan, the group also launched a Web site,, which will serve as a clearinghouse for educational resources for consumers, businesses and law enforcement on ways to prevent and detect identity theft, and to help victims recover.

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