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Feds Target Identity Thieves

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The Bush administration wants to increase consumer access to credit reports and streamline credit security for victims of identity theft.

The measures proposed Monday are among several the Treasury Department wants added to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which contains provisions that Congress must renew by year's end.

"Too often, consumers' rights are hidden from view, and that should be fixed when Congress reauthorizes the act," said Treasury Secretary John Snow.

The administration wants to let consumers obtain a free credit report annually, upon request, and wants the reports explained in clear language.

"Consumers should be offered the right to review their credit reports for accuracy and completeness," Snow said. "Consumers also should be provided more information about their credit scores and instructed on how they can improve their credit profiles."

Snow also outlined a national alert system that would allow victims of identity theft to notify a credit bureau, which would share the information with others — allowing the consumer to start the ball rolling with a single phone call.

Snow said a uniform policy would allow quick sharing of credit information among bureaus, banks and law enforcement.

"Recovering one's identity is a long, stressful and painful process," he said. "We need to make it more difficult to take one's identity and much easier to re-establish one's identity."

Consumer groups have opposed the renewal of the act, saying states should be free to set their own standards for sharing personal data. Business groups prefer the national standards because consumers could face different scores based on where they live and not their payment histories.