Identity Theft Law – The Legal Implications and Consequences of Identity Fraud

Identity Fraud is a serious offense and identity fraud law has been enacted in the United States of America to curb this growing menace. Lawmakers and law enforcement agencies became aware of the growing incidence of identity theft and passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (ITADA) in 1998 to bring identity thieves to justice and protect the victim.

More often than not identity fraud involves online transactions and the culprit is anonymous and faceless. The process of tracing the culprit is therefore tedious and difficult but not impossible. With increasing use of the internet in day-to-day activities there has been a proportional increase in the number of identity fraud cases.

Tracking down the criminal requires coordination between various federal organizations like the FTC, postal inspection service, United States secret service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice and the credit report agency

Identity fraud law vests the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with the task of receiving complaints from victims of identity theft and providing them the necessary information. The FTC processes the complaint and then refers it to an appropriate authority for further necessary action.

ITADA passed by the United States Senate in 1998 identified identity thefts associated with mortgage, credit card, loans, services and commodities as punishable. With the complexity of identity thefts increasing, the Senate amended the ITADA in 2003.

The ITADA in its amended form makes it illegal for any individual to be knowingly in possession of another person’s identity without lawful authority. If the identity is used to commit, aid or abet any activity that is a violation of Federal law it is a serious federal crime and appropriate legal measures will be initiated.

The ITADA recognizes identity fraud as a serious felony and if guilt is proved in a court of law the culprit could serve up to thirty years in prison in addition to penalties.

California and Wisconsin are two states in the USA that have created an office of privacy protection entrusted with the responsibility of educating citizens about avoiding identity theft and assisting them to cope with and recover from an identity fraud.

California also enacted a data breach notification law that was later emulated by many states. This law stipulates that a company must notify all its customers of any breach of data that is identified.

Currently most states in the United States have enacted special laws to fight identity theft. Most states also have a special section within the Attorney General’s office that deals exclusively with identity theft.

You should intimate the FTC immediately after coming to know about identity theft. You can do this through email or calling up their toll free number or making a personal visit to the local FTC office. You should also inform the credit reporting agency and local police department.

Identity fraud law is relatively new and amendments will be made as conmen devise newer ways of swindling money. Being well informed and prevention is the best way to fight identity fraud.

Do You Measure Up? Proving That Legal Departments Are More Than a Cost Center

General Counsel (GC) across most industries remain under pressure to operate efficiently, cut costs and maximize existing resources. In order to properly measure just how successful a Lawyer is operating today under these mandates, it is vital that in-house legal teams have a system of metrics and measurements in place. By measuring efficiencies, GCs can demonstrate their value to the organization and can provide proof points that help their legal department gain the trust and respect of company executives.

Are GCs on board?

In a recent survey, GCs were asked, “Do Metrics Provide a Useful and Accurate Measure of the Legal Department’s Value to the Business?” In response, 66% of General Counsel (GC) said that metrics do not provide a good measure of the legal department’s value. Additionally, most GCs reported that they do not use metrics to assess the legal department’s performance (58%), and they do not believe that metrics assist in analyzing the legal department’s value (66%).

Measuring cost vs. value

Why? When considering Conferences metrics generally, they are most often designed to measure only the legal department’s cost to the organization, rather than the department’s value. For example, the most common metrics in legal departments are:

* Legal expenses as a percentage of corporate revenue

* The cost of outside counsel

* Internal Legal Process Outsourcing department costs

* Cost per matter

* Average billing rate

It’s easy to see that these metrics are more about cost than value. To accurately capture value, a legal department needs to tell a complete and balanced story and show not simply the dollars being spent by a Lawyer, but how much that department has saved the organization from spending or losing. There are a number of methods to measure both the tangible and intangible value of a legal department. Here are a few:

* Feedback from client surveys that focus on quality of service, efficiency, commerciality and communication

* Assessing matter success rates

* Calculating dollars saved by negotiating better rates or AFAs with outside counsel

* Documentation of the where the LPO team added commercial value in a matter

* Tracking of the actual risks that were avoided

* Tracking the cost of internal legal resource against external hourly spend

* Regular reports to the business and/or board of directors

Going back to the aforementioned survey, most GCs believed their in-house legal teams were viewed as both legal counsel and strategic business partner. In fact only 19% reported that their in-house teams were seen purely as legal counsel. This demonstrates that GCs are being asked to play a greater strategic role in their organizations. It also reinforces the need for GCs to use metrics to prove value. As we approach mid-year, GCs will likely continue to search for new ways to heighten the efficiency of their departments, while working steadily to provide more value to their organizations as strategic partners.

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How Legal KPI Can Maximize Resources

Key performance indicators are not just applicable to sales oriented organizations, to health facilities, or to banks and lending institutions. Even in legal-oriented companies or law firms, KPIs are very much in need. Why is this so — because no CEO will say that opting for higher costs is better, when one can operate on lower expenses? Unless, of course, there is data that will support the efficiency and effectiveness of the allocation of resources; unless there is a report that produces measurable values; unless managers focus on priorities, no CEO will gamble on expensive operation.

A business organization is never complete without the important cogs in the wheel — the different departments. These departments could be the accounting, sales, advertising, marketing, collection, billing, human resources, legal, and information technology. More often than not, only a few of these departments are allotted a significant chunk of the company’s resources. This is due to the fact that most managers, directors and even CEOs, decades ago, think that some of these departments are just petty and require fewer resources. They put lesser values on these sections, not knowing that they actually spend more on less important things, rather than what they believe as cost savings.

This is where performance management comes in, and in this part, KPIs or key performance indicators play a big role. See, what business managers perceive before as added expenses are now considered serious investments. For example, having an IT department was a subject of debate for the board of directors for companies back in the 70s and 80s. They believe it is not really that important to hire full time computer programmers and technicians to maintain their computer systems, so they opted to offer part time IT personnel. This goes without them knowing that the company would actually end spending more on lesser values.

This is why it is very important for a company, especially for a conservative and sometimes un-initiative organization such as a law firm, to consider weighing things and evaluate the performance of each department. KPI or key performance indicators are not factors for success, but these are specific areas and activities that are subject for measurement. It could either be financial or non-financial. But whatever it is, KPIs for a law company are a must. There are generally eight key performance indicators managers can draw. These eight KPIs are further categorized into four: the indicators for service levels, for customers, for external clients, and for operational efficiency.

Under the KPI for service levels, there are three indicators: morale and teamwork, turnaround, and accessibility. These are usually measured on a one to five scale. The next two indicators are found under the KPIs for customers. These are results and overall satisfaction. These two are measured using a five point index. The sixth KPI found under external clients is impact, measured using a three point scale. The last two indicators, categorized as operational efficiency are: legal services cost and performance of budget; both measured at a three point scale.

Measuring and managing the performance of the organization has never been easier, thanks to new hardware platforms and applications that help analyze values and data accurately. Yet it is clear, that without knowing the legal KPI, it is impossible to know whether the company has spent more on less or not.