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By Jim Whiting

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57 53 CHAPTER FOUR Can Identity Theft Be Prevented? So despite the new law, police and prosecutors still spent a lot less time and energy on identity theft than on other, more conventional crimes. This hampered prevention efforts. Congressman John Carter of Texas, a former county judge, sought to remedy this problem when he sponsored the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which Congress passed in 2004. The act created the new crime of “aggravated identity theft,” which added two more mandatory years to prison sentences for those convicted of identity theft.

Even when they become aware of a problem, they may believe that they have to pay for what has been purchased in their name. Another consequence is the amount of time—and additional money—it takes to stop further thefts and reclaim one’s identity. According to estimates, the actual financial outlay to stop the process is at least $1,500, and in many cases considerably more. And it is not uncommon for people to spend hundreds of hours on the phone, on the computer, or in person trying to reverse the process and restore their good name and credit.

Many experts agree that the most important way consumers can protect themselves is to continually monitor credit reports, both their own and their children’s (even if the children have no credit). Some even suggest this be done every three months. Along the same lines, people should keep track of credit card billing 61 c­ ycles and carefully check monthly statements for any unfamiliar charges. Since most banks now make it possible for their customers to monitor their accounts online, it only takes a minute or two each day to check for any unusual withdrawals.

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