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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John Snow

John Snow
Hello. Great event today as President Bush Signed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. Read more about it here. Let's take some questions.

Lara, from Manchester writes:
I have seen comercials for a bank that protects you from identify threat. Do programs like this really work or they all PR?

John Snow
We are happy to see that more and more people are taking this problem seriously , such as banks, law enforcement, and consumers, who are recognizing the importance of this problem and are working to fight it. Of course, as a good consumer, you should always look closely at every product. This legislation will give new tools to banks and law enforcement and consumers to fight identity theft.

liz, from california writes:
Identity theft scares me. Thanks for this legislation, Mr. Snow. But the real problem are the credit bureaus. They aren't helpful. it is impossible to fix your credit rating -- even when THEY make the mistake. I sure hope this legislation targets them, and if it doesn't, we really need to. Come down on them hard. Thanks

John Snow
Under the legislation the president signed today, credit bureaus will have important new responsibilities to correct errors and there will be penalties imposed if they don't.

Ben, from Liverpool, England writes:
Hello Mr Snow, I would like to take this opportunity to thank President Bush for coming over to England and despite the protests of a few on the TV, the actual British public enjoyed his coming to our country.

I was wondering if the government of your country looks at the European countries fraud crime rate and compare it to your own and whether you consider yours to be of a better number?

John Snow
It's hard to compare because we have different financial systems and different ways to report crimes, so its hard to make any comparisons. But, its certainly too big and must be fought.

none, from none writes:
Dear Secretary Snow, Greetings from Alabama How does one's "identity" get stolen? Is it just credit cards or drivers' licenses or what? How do I make sure no one gets my info?

Thanks and God Bless

John Snow
Credit cards and drivers licenses are just two of the many ways that crooks try to commit fraud by pretending to be someone they are not. One of the important tools to protect your information will be the free credit reports you be able to get under this legislation.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
What suggestions you do have for Americans to avoid identity theft? Merry Christ-mas and Happy New Year

John Snow
Michael, happy holidays to you too. Your first duty is to monitor your credit report regularly. Second,, the FTC has a good brochure on how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft which I encourage you get from their website. Third, check with your financial institution to see what programs they offer to help you.

Michael, from NJ writes:
Hello Mr. Snow. The mother of a close friend of mine recently went through the agony of having her identity stolen by an individual who is yet to be apprehended. What advice would you give her that could restore her confidence in the U.S. government's ability to first, prevent such acts, and then to capture the cowards who commit these crimes? Thank you.

John Snow
It's specifically because of cases like your friends' mother, that this legislation is so needed and so important. The president's action today will help stop identity theft in its tracks, help victims restore their good name, and help law enforcement catch these crimes. I think this new law will help restore her confidence.

Tanya, from Spokane, WA writes:
How serious really is identity theft anyway? And what specific measures are you taking to empower consumers? Sorry that I'm skeptical, but government can't solve everything.

John Snow
An FTC report this year indicates that ten million Americas became victims of ID theft in the last twelve months. It's the fastest growing financial crime. To empower consumers we are taking several measures, let me highlight two. First, every consumer now will have access to a free credit report. Second, we will be creating in the law a new national fraud alert system by which consumers can warn financial institutors all across the county that their information may have been compromised, such as when you lose your pocketbook. This new law will help consumers work together with business and law enforcement to fight this crime.

Richard, from West Bay writes:
I'm worried that with these new measures, government will have more information about Americans. I'm worried that our civil liberties are being taken away.

John Snow
This legislation does not create new access to information. In fact, it provides new penalties for improper use of your information, particularly misuse of medical information.

John, from Sedgewick writes:
This bill has a spam component does it not?

John Snow
That's a serious problem, but it is being considered by congress in separate legislation.

Roger, from Framingham writes:
Is the safest way to protect yourself against identity theft to move to Antarctica and live in an igloo?

John Snow
You have put your finger on why we need this legislation, so folks don't need to go to such extremes to protect their identity.

Judy, from Toledo, Ohio writes:
Secretary Snow, Is there any discussion about going to a national ID system separate from using the social security number so that sensitive information desired by criminals would be much more difficult to acquire? When the social security numbers were created, they were for a very narrow purpose but now have grown to become a national identity used everywhere and thus, easy to steal. Thank you.

John Snow
This legislation does not contemplate a national ID system, but it does strengthen the national standards for protecting your financial information.

Ken, from Bangor writes:
Secretary Snow I suspect my ex-wife is using my identity. I have numerous charges on my credit card which are fraudulent. I don't want to press charges against her because I'm hoping that we can get back together and the last thing she needs is to go back to prison (she has been in prison twice already).

If I explain this to the credit bureau, will they remove the late charges on my account (some are over a year old)?

John Snow
In your specific case, probably the best thing to do is get good legal counsel.

Kathy, from Spokane, Washington writes:
I recently had my purse stolen, including my social security card, what can I do to monitor whether someone is taking on my identity?

(I have done all the normal things, new accounts, new credit cards, all current credit cards have been renewed and informed of the theft)

Can I get a credit report on a regular basis without having to pay a fee?

John Snow
Under this legation you can get one free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus every year.

Chris, from Minnesota writes:
Secretary Snow, what involvment, if any, did the U.S. treasury department have in developing the new Iraqi currency?

John Snow
Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein was marked by division: religious, political, ethnic, and economic division. Iraq's currency reflected this division with two currencies - one in the north, one in the south. With the conversion to a new, single currency, the people of Iraq and the Iraqi economy will be unified with one stable currency for all Iraqi citizens.

Establishing a single, stable currency that has the confidence of the Iraqi people is a pre-requisite for a modern market economy. Without a stable currency, a healthy banking system is impossible, and fiscal policy and monetary policy become ineffective. Treasury helped Iraqi officials at the finance ministry and the central bank of Iraq to carry out this historic exchange.

Our work involved helping on monetary policy -- determining how much money to print, how foreign exchange operations would be carried out, and determining the appropriate value for the new currency. It also involved working with other governments to get the currency printed in time. The currency was printed at six sites around the world -- including the UK, Malta, Sri Lanka, Germany and other sites.

So getting the currency printed and shipped to Iraq was an incredible undertaking. Treasury also brought experience to the CPA on the logistics of how to carry out a currency exchange. The CPA and the coalition forces are doing a marvelous job with a huge logistical undertaking -- taking the currency throughout the country to 250 different sites. The currency exchange began on October 15 and will continue through January 15. It is going very well.

John Snow
Thank you very much for the opportunity to be with you today. This is my second appearance on "Ask the White House." Before I go, let me take a moment to talk about the how the economy is doing. We are seeing some good signs that show us the U.S. economy is heading the right direction. These recent indicators over the last few weeks are providing continued positive evidence that our economy is beginning to recover. And while this news is encouraging, our work will not be complete until we ensure that every American who wants a job can find a job. It will be important to make steady progress on President Bush's economic program to sustain growth and create jobs. Have a wonderful holiday season.

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