North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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Cooper proposes Identity Theft Protection Act of 2005

Release date: 3/22/2005

Raleigh: North Carolinians will have more protection from identity thieves if a bill proposed today by state legislators becomes law, Attorney General Roy Cooper said.

“All an identity thief needs are a few key pieces of information about you to steal your identity, ruin your credit and even get you arrested,” said Cooper. “We must make it harder for thieves to get their hands on this sensitive personal information in the first place.”

A measure introduced today by Senator Dan Clodfelter and backed by Cooper would continue the fight against identity theft by strengthening safeguards for personal information, requiring businesses and government to better protect sensitive financial information about people, and giving consumers more tools to fight theft of their information.

Other sponsors of the bill include Senators Alberston, Dannelly, Dalton, Garrou, Graham, Hagan, Hoyle, Purcell, Rand, Soles, Swindell, Thomas and Weinstein.

Identity theft happens when a criminal steals some piece of personal information about you, such as your social security number or date of birth, and uses it to commit financial fraud in your name. Some identity thieves even give their victim’s name to police where they’re arrested for committing crimes, causing innocent people to be charged with crimes they didn’t commit.

Approximately 286,000 North Carolinians have their identity stolen each year. A typical identity theft victim spends on average $800 and 175 hours over 23 months to clean up his or her credit and erase $18,000 in fraudulent charges. The national cost of identity theft annually is $55 billion, including billions of dollars in losses to businesses.

To cut down on identity theft in North Carolina, the proposed law would:

• Minimize the use of Social Security Numbers as identification numbers and restrict the sale and display of SSNs;
• Give consumers the right to place a security “freeze” on their credit reports. Placing a security freeze on your report would prohibit credit reporting agencies from releasing any information about you to new creditors without your approval, making it difficult for an identity thief to open an account or obtain credit in your name;
• Provide protection for credit header information. The term “credit header” refers to the personal identifying information in a consumer's credit file, including a consumer's name, address, telephone number, Social Security Number, mother's maiden name, and birth date. The unrestricted use and sharing of this information can put consumers at serious risk of identity theft;
• Make sure that businesses that collect personal identifying information about their customers dispose of records properly, so that identity thieves can’t retrieve information from discarded files that have been carelessly thrown away;
• Require businesses to notify their customers if a security breach may have compromised their personal information and placed them at risk of identity theft, such as what occurred recently at ChoicePoint and LexisNexis;
• Make sure that state and local governments collect personal identifying information, especially Social Security Numbers, only when essential and that they do a better job of safeguarding the information that they collect. The measure would prohibit government agencies from unnecessarily collecting or sharing people’s Social Security Numbers.

The Identity Theft Protection Act of 2005 marks the latest effort in a comprehensive attack Cooper first launched against identity theft two years ago, which has included more help and training for law enforcement, a campaign to raise public awareness of this growing crime, and working with business to protect private information and fight fraud. Cooper’s three-pronged attack has been lauded by the Federal Trade Commission as a national model

At Cooper’s urging, North Carolina has previously taken steps to beef up its laws against identity theft, making the crime a higher class felony and outlawing trafficking in stolen identities. A measure that became law last year and will apply to all retailers by July 1 requires businesses to stop printing the entire credit card numbers on consumers’ receipts, making the receipts worthless to identity thieves.

“Identity thieves are robbing more people of their good names and costing businesses and consumers billions of dollars each year,” said Cooper. “We’ve made strides in fighting this crime, and this bill will give us more ways to thwart ID thieves.”

To learn more about identity theft and steps consumers can take to protect themselves, visit www.ncdoj.com and click on “Consumer Protection.”