SEATTLE – Attorney General Rob McKenna convened Washington’s first statewide summit to address identity theft on Wednesday in SeaTac, bringing together nearly 300 leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss how to tackle what has become the fastest-growing crime in the United States.
“Our identity is our most personal possession,” McKenna told summit participants. “It’s who we are. We must fight against those criminals who would try to take that away.”
Law enforcement, prosecutors, identity theft victims, legislators, financial and retail institutions, government agencies, and consumer advocacy organizations were represented.
Their energetic discussions centered on improved coordination, communication and legislation that would benefit the criminal justice system, the private sector, and victims.
“An overarching theme emerged from the ideas presented during today’s identity theft summit,” McKenna told the group after listening to their suggestions, “and that theme was information – sharing it, standardizing it, disseminating it, and protecting it.”
“Participants spoke about the need to share information between agencies and make it easier for victims to get the information they need to resolve their problems,” McKenna said.
“They spoke about the need for standardized messages to educate consumers about how to avoid becoming victims. And standardized ways to collect and share information – much like the way police now gather details about other serious crimes that enable them to investigate cases that cross jurisdictions.
“A number of recommendations focused on ways to disseminate information to consumers. It doesn’t do any good to make sure the door is open for them if they don’t know how to walk through that door.
“Lastly, we heard many suggestions for protecting consumer information and reducing opportunities for cons to commit identity theft,” McKenna said.
Ain Jones, partner resources coordinator for Starbucks Coffee Company, described her personal experience with identity theft.
“When you become the victim of identity theft, you feel as if a ghost has taken your soul,” Jones said. “You don’t know who it is, where they are, where they came from. All you know is that this is happening to you and you can’t stop it.
“If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” Jones added. “Don’t think, ‘I don’t fit the profile.’ Because there is no profile.”
Other speakers included David Miner from Symantec Corporation, Scott Grimes from Target’s Financial Investigation Services, and Susan Storey of the King County Prosecutor’s Office.
Some of the specific suggestions mentioned during the summit:
- Tougher sentencing laws for identity thieves.
- A shared database of information about identity theft cases that can be accessed by both public and private entities that investigate cases and assist victims.
- A one-stop center where victims can report identity theft and receive information and support.
- A public relations campaign to educate consumers about how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Training for law enforcement, businesses, government agencies and others that handle personal information and investigate identity theft cases.
- New legislation that would prohibit the release of personal information without consumer consent, and an amendment to Washington credit report security freeze law to protect more consumers.
- Laws that would make it easier for businesses to share customer information with law enforcement in order to expedite an identity theft investigation.
- Earlier this year, McKenna formed an interagency advisory panel to work together on the growing problem of identity theft. The panel will analyze recommendations from the summit and provide a final report by the end of the year.
“Today’s suggestions will form the foundation of a blueprint to action,” McKenna said. “We will prioritize the steps we need to take to turn these ideas into real solutions to prevent fraud, successfully prosecute criminals and aid victims.”
For more information, Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432, firstname.lastname@example.org