|Received:||6/15/2004 5:00:00 PM|
|Organization:||United States Marine Corps|
|Agency:||Federal Trade Commission|
|Rule:||Identity Theft Proposed Rule|
Our office represents the Marine Corps in this matter. We have carefully read your notice, and find the majority of suggestions very favorable to consumers and the military community. We have three comments, noted below:
1. We recommend against an addition to the definition of "Identity Theft" that "a person's identifying information must be used without lawful authority". The Commission correctly notes on the Notice, p 18, that "the harm that would result from a delay in the placement of an alert would be greater than the harm resulting from an alert that is improperly placed." This should be the overriding concern: prompt, unfettered action to block, freeze, or otherwise protect accounts.
The present statutory language limits the Act's protections—further language may slow the quick application of the Act's protections. For example, if an individual commits or assists in fraud, then under the Act, section 1681c-2(c)(1), there is already sufficient basis to decline or rescind a block. Also under 1681c-1(a), the lack of "good faith" is reason to decline a fraud alert. Finally, the definition of "Identity Theft Report" specifies that a filer is subjected to criminal penalties upon filing of a false Identity Theft report. The fear expressed in the Commission's notice is that individuals may collude in fraud, and then reap the Act's protections. Because of the "good faith" requirement, and because Identity Theft Reports are made at risk of criminal penalty, "Identity Theft" requires no further definition. Further limiting "Identity Theft"--one of the most common terms in the Act--would multiply the avenues for delay. The primary concern should be fastest possible action to protect accounts from further Identity Theft, not to open an avenue for delay of that protection until the adequacy of a complaint of "Idenitity Theft" is vetted through yet another definitional prong.
2. We agree with allowing information furnishers and consumer reporting agencies to request additional information to ascertain the validity of alleged identity thefts. However, with prompt and delay-free protection the focus of the Act, we suggest specifying that the 5-day limit to request information must operate independently from, and have no effect on, all other time-limits in the Act. Thus the CRA's initial decision should, per the Act, be to accept or deny a claim of ID Theft; additional information can be sought to clarify a ID Theft claim/report, and may give reason to doubt "good faith" or validity of a ID Theft report. For example, the section 1681c-2(a) "4 business days" limit for blocking information should not be affected, delayed, or tolled by the 5-day limit for requesting information--action to block still would be required within 4 business days. The consumer reporting agency could, upon receipt of additional information, then rescind the block. This independent operation of the 5-day additional information request, and other time limits, will ensure prompt protection of consumers. An additional illustration: a request for an Extended Fraud Alert under 1681c-1(b)(1)A would still require a fraud alert "beginning on the date of such request"; the consumer reporting agency could, however, request further information within 5 days--but could not delay placing the fraud alert on the date of the initial request. The net result will likely benefit the consumer: in order to reduce cost of labor and paperwork in sending consumers requests for additional information, and to prevent erroneous acceptance or denial of information-lacking claims of identity theft, it is foreseeable that consumer reporting agencies will post on websites, or otherwise make clear to consumers in a cost-efficient way, the information CRA's need to determine the validity of identity theft claims.
3. The Act's definition of "Active Duty Military Consumer" creates a problem for those many military members who are reservists deployed overseas and who have no "usual duty station." Additionally, the definition is unclear as to what "assigned to service" means--some assignments to service away from a usual station may be, for example, temporary duty for 5 days at a location 30 miles away from the usual duty station; this in most cases is not the Act's target "Active Duty Military Consumer".
Proposed solution: We suggest adding inclusive language citing examples of the Act's problematic "Active Duty Military Consumer" definition, borrowing language from the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 USCS Appdx sec 535. Further clarify "assigned to service away from the usual duty station of the consumer" with the following inclusive language:
a. 'Usual duty station' shall include, in the case of reservists, the consumer's reserve unit's location inside the continental United States.
b. 'Assigned to service' shall include the receipt of military orders for deployment with a military unit for a period of not less than 60 days".
c. 'Away from the usual duty station' shall include locations 50 miles or more from the usual duty station.