Protecting Against Identity Theft
Lawmakers introduced legislation this week, which would put several important safeguards in place to provide better protection from identity theft for consumers. The "Identity Theft Protection Act," House Bill 1248, was sponsored by Reps. Bruce Goforth (D-Buncombe), Ronnie Sutton (D-Robeson), Minority Leader Joe Kiser (R-Lincoln), and Karen Ray (R-Iredell) and co-sponsored by more than 30 members from across the state, including me.
According to the North Carolina Department of Justice, approximately 286,000 North Carolinians are victims of stolen identity 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.
One useful tool available to consumers under this bill would be the right to place a security "freeze" on their credit reports. This would prohibit credit reporting agencies from releasing any information about the consumer to new creditors without the consumer's approval, making it difficult for an identity thief to open an account or obtain credit in another person's name.
Other safeguards in the bill include minimizing the use of Social Security numbers as identification numbers by businesses and restricting the sale of Social Security numbers. The measure would also prohibit the printing of Social Security numbers on materials mailed to an individual unless Federal or State law requires it and would require that businesses properly dispose of personal information that might put consumers at risk for identity theft. Finally, the bill requires a business to notify an individual of any security breach that may have put their personal information in jeopardy.
A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate and has the full support of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.