Task Force Urges Crackdown on Identity Theft

Task Force Urges Crackdown on Identity Theft

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- To fight identity fraud, Utah authorities are recommending harsher sanctions and a new crime of possessing another's identification.

The Utah Identity Theft Task Force recommends making identity fraud a felony crime and making three or more convictions a racketeering offense.

Cases of identity fraud in Utah soared to 527 cases in 2002 from just from 32 six years earlier, the task force told the Utah Technology Commission last week.

Identity fraud commonly starts with stolen Social Security cards, which can be used to obtain credit cards and open bank accounts. Thieves assume other people's identities and make purchases and apply for credit in their names.

Assistant Utah attorney general Richard Hemp says it should be a crime for anyone to possess another's identification. He said many drivers pulled over by police turn out to have fraudulent along with a legitimate ID, but can't be prosecuted for that unless they use the fraudulent IDs to commit a crime.

Another task force proposal would make clear that any law enforcement agency that starts an identity theft investigation would follow it, even if it leads outside its jurisdiction.

Police often pass off cases of identity theft that do no originate or create victims in their jurisdiction because the investigations can be expensive and catch only misdemeanor offenders, said Lt. Terry Powell of the Utah Cybercrimes Task Force.

"If you lose $300, it's going to cost Salt Lake Police Department much more to bring that to trial," Powell said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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