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Highlights

The loss of personally identifiable information, such as an individual's Social Security number, name, and date of birth can result in serious harm, including identity theft. Identity theft is a serious crime that impacts millions of individuals each year. Identity theft occurs when such information is used without authorization to commit fraud or other crimes. While progress has been made protecting personally identifiable information in the public and private sectors, challenges remain. GAO was asked to testify on how the loss of personally identifiable information contributes to identity theft. This testimony summarizes (1) the problem of identity theft; (2) steps taken at the federal, state, and local level to prevent potential identity theft; and (3) vulnerabilities that remain to protecting personally identifiable information, including in federal information systems. For this testimony, GAO relied primarily on information from prior reports and testimonies that address public and private sector use of personally identifiable information, as well as federal, state, and local efforts to protect the security of such information. GAO and agency inspectors general have made numerous recommendations to agencies to resolve prior significant information control deficiencies and information security program shortfalls. The effective implementation of these recommendations will continue to strengthen the security posture at these agencies.

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