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FTC needs more money to better protect Arizona from identity theft


Opinion: The Federal Trade Commission needs more money to beef up staffing, so it can investigate identity theft in Arizona and elsewhere.

Over the past five years, enforcement actions by the nation’s leading consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission, have returned $11.7 billion to more than 10 million consumers harmed by fraud and identity theft.

If you’re wondering why that should matter to you, consider this: That has meant more than $30 million has been returned to the roughly 265,000 Arizonans who were victims of identity theft.

In fact, the commission, known as the FTC, delivers refunds to Arizonans at a rate of 20% higher than the national average (3.6% of Arizonans vs. 3.1% nationally).

Why?

Because Arizona ranks just outside the top 10 in the country for identity theft – a crime the FTC is charged with investigating and enforcing.

Identity theft comes in many forms

From dating site scams to data breaches, there were 63,250 reports of identity theft for people living in the state in 2020. That’s 870 reports for every 100,000 Arizona residents.

ID theft can come in the form of employment or tax-related fraud, internet schemes, credit card or bank fraud, phone or utilities scams, and loan or lease fraud.

No doubt many of you reading this have been the victim of one of these fraudulent acts in the past five years. And not surprisingly, a majority of Americans anticipate major cyberattacks within the next five years on public infrastructure or banking and financial systems.

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It is time for Congress to give the FTC the resources it needs to better protect us and our families. 

Crimes associated with ID theft are increasing at alarming rates as the use of mobile and wearable devices grows and new technologies advance.

Yet there is no federal law that specifically requires businesses to keep that data secure from hackers, despite myriad breaches, including a recent breach at T-Mobile involving the names, Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers of 53 million Americans. These breaches can lead to identity fraud, which costs consumers an estimated $13 billion in 2020 alone.

Beefing up the FTC would more than pay for itself

The FTC is vastly underfunded and understaffed, particularly given the large swath of commerce it is tasked with regulating. The commission is the only federal agency with both consumer protection and competition jurisdiction in broad sectors of the economy. 

Congress has under consideration right now a $1 billion increase over 10 years for the FTC in the budget reconciliation bill, better known as the Build Back Better Act, to increase enforcement of privacy violations if the U.S. Senate, including Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, throw their weight behind the much-needed proposal. 

New funding for the FTC is long overdue and more than warranted. The agency can use the new money to hire and train more staff, increase investigations of existing and emerging technologies and strengthen enforcement.

The funds also could create a bureau for privacy and tech that would police data privacy and security abuses, a priority for many Americans. Reducing identity theft, data breaches, fraud and scams will save millions for Arizonans.

What’s more, the investment would more than pay for itself: It could produce an additional $600 million per year in refunds to consumers, or up to $6 billion over the next decade. That’s a win-win for taxpayers and families.

As Arizona and the nation look to the FTC to ensure children and families are better protected, Congress has an opportunity to finally provide it with sufficient support.

Ilana Lowery is Arizona director for Common Sense Media, a national nonprofit committed to the well-being of children and families in a digital world. Reach her at [email protected].

Source: on 2021-09-29 08:56:15

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