California lawmakers push for identity theft safeguards

| 7/24/2006

Concerns about identity theft in California led a state lawmaker to offer multiple bills intended to help curb the problem.

Sen. Chuck Poochigian, R-Fresno, has three bills related to identity theft that remain active in the 2006 legislative session, which is scheduled to wrap up by the end of August.

“Identity theft is the fastest growing crime category in the nation, largely because the criminals who profit from it often face only a slap-on-the-wrist if caught,” Poochigian said in a written statement.

California law limits charges for possessing and trafficking in identifying information to a misdemeanor, regardless of the number of identities stolen.

One bill, SB1387, offered by Poochigian would increase the penalties for the theft and trafficking of personal identifying information of 10 or more individuals. Violators would face as much as three years in prison.

Another bill, SB1388, changes the penalty for using fraudulent e-mails or Web sites to “trick” consumers into providing personal information, such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers because they claim to be a legitimate business.

Anyone found to be engaging in the practice, also known as “phishing,” would face up to three years in prison and/or as much as a $10,000 fine.

One other bill, SB1390, would require the Department of Justice to include information regarding identity theft arrests in the agency’s annual crime report.

The bills have passed from the Senate and are in the Assembly.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor