North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has signed a bill into law requiring local and state governments to take preventive measures to combat identity theft in handling customers' personal information.
The new law is intended to close a loophole in a law enacted last year that required only businesses to notify customers about data breaches.
Government agencies were excluded from last year's version because the emphasis was on changing business practices, the Charlotte Observer reported.
However, three of the past six publicly revealed breaches that originated in the state have stemmed from public agencies, the newspaper reported. A majority of the more than 200 breaches revealed nationwide since 2005 are from government agencies.
Rules requiring consumer notification of data security breaches are on the books in 32 states. Government agencies are included in the protections in 21 of those states.
State law enacted a year ago restricts the sale and display of Social Security numbers, and mandates companies to properly destroy information when they throw it away.
This year's version – HB1248 – allows the Secretary of State's Office to delay until July 2007 the removal of Social Security numbers from an estimated 500,000 online records, the Observer reported.
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.