Law sought to combat identity theft, fraud |

Law sought to combat identity theft, fraud

Identity fraud is prevalent in Nevada, and it doesn’t just come in the form that warrants a federal case, law enforcement representatives said Monday.

The representatives urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to support SB 69, which would make theft of a person’s identity a felony. It also applies to obtaining credit or goods in another person’s name and sets penalties of a maximum 20-year prison sentence and a $100,000 fine.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, introduced the bill, along with a stack of articles detailing identity-related fraud.

“I can’t think of anything worse that can happen to a person,” he said. “It is just an absolute disaster to see how people have been victimized. Their lives have been torn to shreds.

“This may not stop it, but it will be a disincentive. This is really a situation that cries out for help.”

Identity-related theft and fraud cases are on the rise. A typical situation involves a perpetrator who obtains personal information about a victim, such as name, address, social security number or financial information, and uses it to establish parallel credit lines or bank accounts, or to access the victim’s existing accounts. The victim is left with debts and the task of reestablishing his or her credit and identity.

State and local officials said such theft happens often, though it doesn’t always warrant federal charges.

“This is one of the most pressing issues we have,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General Kevin Higgins. “It happens every day.”

Sen. Mike McGinnis, R-Fallon, said mail theft can often lead to identity fraud when the thieves take credit card applications, checks or bills containing personal information.

“It is a real crisis,” he said.

Others noted the problem can include something as simple as a sibling or roommate who steals checks and assumes, in part, the identity of the victim.

Backers of the bill include the Retail Association of Nevada, the Nevada Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Association and the Nevada District Attorneys Association.

John Morrow, representing the Washoe County Public Defenders Office, said the group supports the bill but thinks it should address the degree of any identity-related crimes by classifying them as misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors or felonies instead of just felonies.

Las Vegas Metro Police Lt. Stan Olsen, representing his agency and the Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Association, opposed that suggestion.

“How do you put a value on someone’s good name?” he asked.

No testimony opposing the bill was offered.

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