The Commissioner of Agriculture can mitigate the problem of Identity Theft.
Florida is in the Top 3 states in number of Identity Theft victims.
One in five Americans fall victim to identity theft in their lives.
Nobody is Safe
$5.8 billion lost by consumers in 2021 to Identity Thieves
Hold Thieves Accountable
Educate the Public
Identity theft is a prevalent and increasing crime that preys on Floridians statewide. With a stark uptick in cases since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and growing effects on individuals and families, this is an issue that cannot be ignored. Current legislation renders identity theft illegal but has not been a sufficient deterrent. The Commissioner of Agriculture can mitigate the problem of identity theft with a plan that will hold perpetrators accountable, support victims, and educate people to prevent further cases by addressing the specific trends and statistics of identity theft crimes in Florida.
The extent of identity theft in the US is staggering; in 2021 one in five Americans have fallen victim to at least one instance of identity theft in their lives. The situation for Floridians is among the worst: in 2021, Florida was identified as one of the top three states in terms of identity theft victims. Identity theft is getting worse. It’s growing by 175% since the beginning of the pandemic as countless constituents are open to misinformation and fraudulence.
A common factor in the issue of identity theft is repeated occurrences. 21% of those who have experienced identity theft or fraud are deceived into falling victim to the same crime more than once. Repeated occurrences are only increasing and creating a cycle of financial and emotional hardship that’s becoming harder to break out of.
The financial toll on victims of identity theft is blatant, with a record-breaking $5.8 billion lost by consumers in 2021. However, the effects of these crimes extend far past money. In a 2021 report surveying victims of identity theft, face feelings of isolation, depression, anger, and suicidal thoughts were identified by victims. 
These negative effects aren’t isolated, either. Victims also describe increased arguments with family and friends, and other ill effects on the people around them as well as themselves in a ripple effect. With over a hundred thousand annual reports of identity fraud and theft in this state alone, it's evident that current protections are inadequate in protecting the people of Florida.
So, What Can We Do?!
Under Chapter 817 Section 5685 of the Florida Statutes, it is illegal to “intentionally or knowingly possess, without authorization, the personal identification information of another person in any form” . This statute makes identity theft in Florida unlawful. However, identity theft is far from being eradicated. Change needs to be made in the way we address this issue. Previous Commissioners have responded to this issue mainly through education: speaking to the public and giving tips on how to avoid falling victim to common scams. This is an essential component; however, it is inadequate in resolving the issue.
The Commissioner of Agriculture is able to mitigate the problem of identity theft with a plan that will hold perpetrators accountable, support victims, and educate people to prevent further cases.
Identity theft overall is already illegal in the state of Florida, with fines and jail time as consequences. However, this is not an adequate deterrent: with a stark increase in pandemic-based cases, the commissioner is able to impose an additional fine on perpetrators who have used hardships from the pandemic to commit identity theft. Under Chapter 570 Section 7 of the Florida Statutes, the Agriculture Commissioner is legally able to impose fines of a certain amount based on the crime. This fine imposed on this subsect of perpetrators will act as preventative and consequential action to reduce the pandemic-based cases of identity theft.
Identity theft causes not only a huge financial catastrophe for victims but also emotional and personal fallout. We cannot let Floridians suffer at the hands of identity theft any longer; they must get the support they need to get back on their feet and mitigate ill effects. Chapter 570 explains that the Commissioner is able to “seek appropriate relief on behalf of consumers”. This would involve providing financial relief to victims who are the most affected by these crimes. This would give victims an opportunity to right themselves and limit the harsh aftermath of identity crimes.
It is necessary to ensure that there are fewer new cases of identity theft. Educating constituents on what they can do to prevent falling victim to identity theft is crucial. With a focus on preventing repeat cases, this education would help potential victims protect themselves against scams and misinformation. We must provide educational resources both online and in-person, and ensure that information is presented to all.