Identity Theft: The Internet Connection

RS22082 -- Identity Theft: The Internet Connection

March 16, 2005


Concern is growing about identity theft -- where one person assumes the identity of another by stealing personally identifiable information (PII), such as credit card or Social Security numbers. High profile incidents disclosed in early 2005 involving ChoicePoint, Bank of America, and LexisNexis, where the PII of more than a million Americans may have been compromised, have refocused congressional attention on this issue. Many associate the rise in identity theft cases with the Internet, but surveys indicate that comparatively few victims cite the Internet as the source of their stolen PII. Still, the Internet may play a role, particularly through a practice known as "phishing." Congress already has passed several laws to address identity theft, and continues to debate whether additional action is needed. This report will not be updated; for information on pending bills and current legislative action, see CRS Report RL31408.