California Creates Identity Theft Law


Mar 11, 2001
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California Creates Identity Theft Law

By Robert MacMillan, Newsbytes


11 Oct 2001, 3:10 PM CST

Although California State Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, failed to get her employee e-mail surveillance bill signed into law this year, she today scored a victory with legislation that tries to prevent citizens from becoming the victims of identity theft.

Gov. Gray Davis, D, today signed into law S.B. 168, which Bowen sponsored. The bill requires businesses to cease printing Social Security numbers on health plan and employer identification cards, as well as other kinds of IDs. It also forbids the future printing of Social Security numbers on bank statements and other documents sent by mail, and allows people to freeze access to their credit reports.

Credit bureaus under the bill also must set up a personal identification number-based system so a person can release information from his or her credit report "if there is a specific need," Bowen noted.

Credit bureaus would have to comply with customer requests within three business days.

The credit report freeze language goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2003, while the Social Security number restrictions will be phased in between July 1, 2002 and July 1, 2005.

"The advances in technology haven't just made our lives easier, they've also made life easier for criminals who want to steal people's identities, go on an unlimited shopping spree and stick someone else with the bills," Bowen said in a statement. "Identity theft is one of the easiest, most risk-free crimes thieves can commit. They don't need a gun, a knife, or a getaway car. All they need is someone's Social Security number and a pen."

"The security freeze lets you lock up your credit history, so criminals can't assume your name, get approved for loans and credit cards based on your good credit rating, and then send the collection agencies chasing after you," Bowen added. "Without access to a credit report, businesses aren't going to issue credit, loans and services to someone who walks through the door with your name and Social Security number claiming they're you."

Bowen also cited statistics from the California Public Interest Research Group showing that identity theft victims on average spend 175 hours fighting $18,000 in fraudulent charges, such as bad checks, unpaid credit card bills and overdue car loans.

She also said the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's ID theft hotline typically receives 1,700 calls a week claiming identity theft.

While Bowen's attempt to crack down on ID theft has been successful, her bill extending telephone privacy rights for employees to e-mail, which would have prevented employers from reading their workers' e-mails under many circumstances, was vetoed Tuesday.


About time. Why couldn't this law become effective 1/1/02? How many people get burned in the lag until these laws kick in? Some questions to pose to your government rep next time you see them or write to them.

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