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What Mesothelioma Victims Need to Know About the FACT Act

Identity thieves hit a record 15.4 million Americans in 2016. This translates to a loss of more than $15 billion to consumers. In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion. A new version of a failed Act could make it easier for identity thieves to steal even more money from one of the country’s most vulnerable populations—mesothelioma victims.

The Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency (FACT) Act of 2017 will allow companies to place mesothelioma victims’ personal, sensitive information on a publicly accessible website that can be accessed by anyone with a computer. This information will include the victims’ full name and birth year, the last four digits of their social security number, work and medical histories, and other personal details. Supporters of the Act argue that this a necessary step to ensure that claimants do not commit fraud by claiming their injuries twice. Critics of the Act strongly disagree.

They say the Act is just another way for supporters, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and asbestos industry interests, to create more red tape for mesothelioma victims seeking compensation. Critics also say that the Act may even deter victims from filing a claim at all for fear that all of their personal information will be made public.

In a recent Huffington Post article, contributor Alex Formuzls wrote, “if the bill becomes law, it will allow corporations responsible for poisoning these victims to access their personal information with the click of a mouse, instead of using the established discovery process in litigation. By contrast, attorneys for victims would remain bound by the current rules.”

It’s worth reiterating that other versions of the Act have been presented and failed. The first was in 2012, the second was in 2013, and the third was in 2016. Fortunately, a bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President to become law. This means that the FACT Act still has a long way to go.

The bill was placed on the Union Calendar by the House of Representatives February 24, 2017. A vote by the full House of Representatives has not been scheduled. In the meantime, those who oppose the FACT Act have declared that they will to continue fighting the bill.

 

Sources

Anderson, G. Oscar. "Identity Theft: Who’s At Risk?" AARP Fraud Watch Network. AARP, Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

Farenthold, Blake. "H.R.906 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2017." Congress.gov. Library of Congress, United States Copyright Office, 24 Feb. 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

Formuzis, Alex. "House Will Vote on Bill That Would Expose Many Americans to Online ID Theft." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 05 Jan. 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

"Identity Theft And Cybercrime." Insurance Information Institute (III). Insurance Information Institute, Inc., 2017. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.