ID theft protections advance in Arizona

| Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Arizona Senate has approved a bill intended to protect consumers from identity theft.

Senators voted 21-7 to advance a bill that would require companies to notify people affected by any breaches in security. It also applies to government agencies.

Rules requiring consumer notification of data security breaches are on the books in about 20 states.

Sponsored by Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler, the bill would cover information identifying people’s driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, credit cards and financial accounts.

Violators would face up to a $10,000 fine for each individual who did not get proper notification.

The bill – SB1338 – now heads to the House. If approved there, it would head to Gov. Janet Napolitano for her signature.

Huppenthal’s measure is one of several identity theft protection efforts that were brought forward this year by lawmakers in Arizona.

The protections are being sought to help the state combat a plague of identity theft.

The state and the Phoenix area have the highest per-capita rates of identity-theft related complaints among states and large metropolitan areas nationwide, The Associated Press reported.

Among the other identity theft protections before lawmakers is a bill also offered by Huppenthal that is intended to help prevent the unwanted opening of an account or the obtaining of credit in a person’s name. The bill – SB1347 – would allow consumers to place security “freezes” on their credit that would block a credit report agency from releasing any information without the person’s permission.

Consumers could have the freeze put in place for $15. If they later want to apply for credit, they could have the freeze lifted for a fee of $15.

A bill – HB2016 – offered by Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, would mandate that companies destroy or otherwise protect a customer’s personal information. Violators would face at least a $10,000 fine.

However, the Senate killed a bill that would have mandated jail or prison time for a person convicted of identity theft. Sponsored by Sen. Marilyn Jarrett, R-Mesa, it would have required that offenders serve at least 180 days in jail if placed on probation and not sentenced to prison.

To help prevent identity theft, authorities warn consumers should look out for their own interests by reading their credit card statements, reviewing their credit report once a year, and destroying unwanted credit card offers.

If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you are encouraged to file a police report and a complaint with the state attorney general’s office.

SB1347 won unanimous approval in the Senate and has been sent to the House for further consideration. HB2016 is in two House committees.

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