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After a troubling report from the FTC on identity theft, Congress is moving to make it easier for small businesses to prevent losses caused by thieves who have stolen someone's credit card. The House passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (H.R. 2622) a week after the FTC report was issued.
Joe Rubin, executive director of technology and e-commerce for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says the bill will help entrepreneurs in two ways: by protecting their credit rating and by shielding them from losses from identity theft. The bill accomplishes this by allowing consumers to issue "fraud alerts" to credit bureaus. This would ostensibly stop banks from opening bogus accounts for thieves in the name of someone whose identity they've stolen (via a credit card or bank account number). "Small-business people finance themselves using their own credit cards, second mortgages and personal lines of credit during lean times," Rubin says. "This bill protects that ability."
Need for Heed
Federal agencies could do a better job of considering small-business needs during the rule-making process. That's the conclusion the SBA's Office of Advocacy reached one year after President Bush issued an executive order requiring agencies to write policies to measure the impact of proposed regulations on small business, notify the Office of Advocacy if draft rules have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, and carefully consider the Office of Advocacy's comments about the proposed regulations. "Greater compliance across all agencies is clearly needed," says Thomas M. Sullivan, chief counsel for the SBA's Office of Advocacy. "We expect to see more widespread compliance as we complete training of the agencies."
Stephen Barlas is a freelance business reporter who covers the Washington beat for 15 magazines.