Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tough Id Theft Disclosure Needed Nationwide

According to statistics compiled to date by
Choicepoint, over 56 million Americans
have had their personal identity exposed

to thieves and fraud and the numbers
continue to grow.

To put those numbers in comparison, you have a much
larger chance of becoming an identity theft victim
than you do winning the lottery...any lottery..in any
state.

And the identity thieves, knowing how profitable and
virtually risk free, this consumer crime is - continue
to manage to stay ahead of attempts by business
leaders to come to grips with this fast growing
national problem.

Consumer complaints to the FTC & local law enforcement
put added pressure on the various state level attorney
generals to enact tougher penalties to help stem the
tide. Earlier this year over 45 attorney generals
pressed Congress with the urgent need to develop a
tough, comprehensive national law (like the one in
California) which requires immediate, full consumer
disclosure by companies upon discovering
security breaches involving personal identity
information exposure and theft.

The intent would be to hold companies more accountable
for failing to secure the data they collect and maintain
ont their customers. But, Also, to insure those companies
do not hide from consumers the fact their personal data
has been stolen or exposed to identity theft.

So, here's an brief synopsis (excerpts from the
Washington Post) of where Congress currently
stands in response:

In a recent congressional subcommittee vote, a bill
was approved which would require information brokers
(Choicepoint, LexisNexis, Acxiom, etc.) to submit
plans for safeguarding private data to the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC).

With this bill, data brokers and other entities
nationwide (not just doing business in California) who
store consumer data would have to notify consumers
their personal identity information was exposed.

But, here's the catch - those data brokers would have
to notify consumers their information was exposed only
when it was determined that a "significant risk of
identity theft or other fraud might result."

Data brokers, direct marketers, financial institutions
and several large technology companies support
the approach of this bill.

What that means is, it's conditional and optional
folks for the offending company to issue a consumer
disclosure.

Consumers would not have any warning to protect their
personal identity.

Furthermore, if this bill (as is) goes forth to become
a national law - it would supersede the vastly
different state level laws already in place. So,
bye-bye to the more stringent California law which
many believe has been the sole catalyst to the
consumer disclosures we've seen this past year.

So, our tip for today is to arm yourself with
automatic monitoring, reduce your personal information
potential for exposure by opting out, scrutinize your
existing statements and free credit reports for any
errors.

Finally, you also have the right to contact your
congressional representatives to voice your concern
for the need to enact better protection, enforcement &
consumer disclosure standards.

Here's a Google map based tool for you to easily find
all of your congressional representatives, their
individual websites, and contact information.

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