- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 11, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) State Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said yesterday he has formed a 24-member task force that will examine ways to stem identity theft.

The task force will conduct town hall meetings throughout the state over the next few months. Mr. Kilgore expects the group to have recommendations before the next General Assembly session in January.

"In recent years, the number of consumers in Virginia and across the nation who have become victims of identity theft has increased at an alarming rate," Mr. Kilgore said.

"This form of financial sabotage can devastate one's credit, take endless hours of telephone and written communication to resolve, and costs businesses billions of dollars," he said.

Mr. Kilgore's action comes as the federal government is speeding up investigations and trials of accused identity thieves. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said earlier this month that as many as 700,000 Americans have their identity stolen each year.

Among them is Robert Chapman, a member of Mr. Kilgore's task force. He said an irregularity on his credit report led to his discovery that someone had several delinquent accounts in his name in Florida.

"It's still going on today," said Mr. Chapman, who received a call Thursday from a cellular telephone company that had received an application in his name.

The wireless company called Mr. Chapman because he registered a "fraud alert" with the three major credit-reporting agencies. Whenever a business checks his credit, the agencies are supposed to call Mr. Chapman to verify that the inquiry is legitimate.

One of the most common forms of identity theft occurs when a driver's license is lost or stolen, Mr. Kilgore said. The Social Security number appears on the license unless the driver requests a different number, and it can be used to establish fraudulent credit accounts.

The use of Social Security numbers on drivers' licenses is among the issues that will be examined by the task force, Mr. Kilgore said.

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