President Bush Signs Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act
|George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States. Bush served for six
years as the 46th Governor of the State of Texas, where he earned a reputation
as a compassionate conservative.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming.
Welcome to the White House. Thanks for coming. (Laughter.) Welcome
to the White House. (Laughter.)
We're taking an important step today
to combat the problem of identity theft, one of the fastest growing
financial crimes in our nation. Last year alone, nearly 10 million
Americans had their identities stolen by criminals who rob them and
the nation's businesses of nearly $50 billion through fraudulent
transactions. The bill I'm about to sign sends a clear message that
a person who violates another's financial privacy will be punished.
The Identity Theft Penalty
Enhancement Act also prescribes prison sentences for those who use
identity theft to commit other crimes, including terrorism. It
reflects our government's resolve to answer serious offenses with
I appreciate the members of my
administration who worked on this important piece of legislation,
particularly Cabinet members John Snow and John Ashcroft. I
appreciate the members of the Congress who worked hard on this
legislation: Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Jon Kyl, Senator Dianne
Feinstein, and members of the House, Chairman, Senator Jim
Sensenbrenner, and John Carter from the great state of Texas. I want
to thank the other members of Congress who are here, members of both
political parties. Thank you for coming. I thank those who are on
their staffs who have worked hard.
The crime of identity theft
undermines the basic trust on which our economy depends. When a
person takes out an insurance policy, or makes an online purchase,
or opens a savings account, he or she must have confidence that
personal financial information will be protected and treated with
care. Identity theft harms not only its direct victims, but also
many businesses and customers whose confidence is shaken. Like other
forms of stealing, identity theft leaves the victim poor and feeling
But the losses are not measured only
in dollars. An identity theft -- thief can steal the victim's
financial reputation. Running up bills on credit card accounts that
the victim never knew existed, the criminal can quickly damage a
person's lifelong efforts to build and maintain a good credit
rating. Repairing the damage can take months or years.
Government has a responsibility to
protect citizens from these crimes and the grief and hassle they
cause. It's a solemn responsibility of our government. I want to
thank the members of Congress for recognizing that responsibility.
This good law is part of a broader
effort we've waged in recent years. The U.S. Postal Inspection
Service, the FBI, and Secret Service are working with local and
state officials to crack down on the criminal networks that are
responsible for much of the identity theft that occurs in this
nation. The Federal Trade Commission is training local law
enforcement in the detection of identity theft. The Commission has
set up the ID Theft Data Clearinghouse, which keeps track of
complaints across the country, and provides those records to
prosecutors seeking to take down organized rings.
Last December, I signed the Fair and
Accurate Credit Transactions Act, which established a national
system of fraud detection so that identity thieves can be stopped
before they run up tens of thousands of dollars in illegal
purchases. Thanks to this law, victims can make one phone call to
alert all three major credit rating agencies to report the crime and
to protect their credit ratings.
The law I sign today will
dramatically strengthen the fight against identity theft and fraud.
Prosecutors across the country report that sentences for these
crimes do not reflect the damage done to the victim. Too often,
those convicted have been sentenced to little or no time in prison.
This changes today. This new law establishes in the federal criminal
court the offense of aggravated identity theft. And someone
convicted of that crime can expect to go to jail for stealing a
person's good name. These punishments will come on top of any
punishment for crimes that proceed from identity theft. For example,
when someone is convicted of mail fraud in a case involving stolen
personal information, judges will now impose two sentences, one for
mail fraud, and one for aggravated identity theft. Those convicted
of aggravated identity theft must serve an additional mandatory
two-year prison term. Someone convicted of aggravated identity
theft, such as using a false passport in connection with a terrorism
case, would receive an additional prison sentence of five years. In
addition, judges will not be allowed to let those convicted of
aggravated identity theft serve their sentence on probation.
This law also raises the standard of
conduct for people who have access to personal records through their
work at banks, government agencies, insurance companies, and other
storehouses of financial data. The law directs the United States
Sentencing Commission to make sure those convicted of abusing and
stealing from their customers serve a sentence equal to their
What I'm telling you is this is a
good law. And I appreciate you working hard to see to it that it
made it to my desk. Because of this act of Congress I sign today,
the guilty will be certain to be punished. That's good for our
consumers, it's good for our economy, and it's good for the cause of
Welcome to the White House.
(The bill is signed.)