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Americans worry about a lot of things these days. Some pose real threats, and others are just scary. Today the president tackled threats that are unquestionably real issues in the day-to-day lives of countless Americans: identity theft and credit card fraud. About one in eight American adults (12%) were victims of identity theft in the past 12 months, according to a new AARP report, Identity Theft: Who’s At Risk?

Today, President Barack Obama signed an executive order announcing an initiative he says will help protect Americans from fraud and to help them resolve it much more quickly if they become victims. The “Buy Secure” initiative has several components:

Chip and PIN for All

Obama announced that government credit cards and debit cards like Direct Express, which is used for those who receive Social Security and other government benefits payments electronically, will be upgraded to be chip and PIN-enabled, which is considered a more secure technology than the current magnetic stripes used on most credit cards in the United States. In addition, retailers at federal agency facilities will be upgrading their terminals to accept these chip and PIN-enabled cards. The present said major retailers — including Home Depot, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — are getting on board to upgrade their terminals to accept these cards by January 2015.

Help For Victims

For those who are victims of identity fraud, the Federal Trade Commission will be developing a “new one-stop resource for victims, at IdentityTheft.gov, to streamline the reporting and remediation process with credit bureaus.” MasterCard is going to offer its customers help if they have been victims of ID theft. And the president said he is “encouraging federal law enforcement to share more information with the private sector when they discover identity theft rings.”

More Free Credit Scores

“A sudden drop in your credit rating is one of the clearest signs that you’ve been hit by fraud,” the president said.

Toward that end, he announced that Citi will be among the growing number of credit card companies offering consumers free credit scores. Currently, consumers are entitled to a free credit report from all three credit bureaus annually, but that disclosure does not include credit scores. (Consumers can get free credit scores from Credit.com, updated monthly, along with an action plan for building stronger credit.)

Finally, the White House announced it will host a cybersecurity and consumer protection summit where stronger security standards and next-generation technology will be shared and discussed.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: Mats Tooming

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