Vermont Identity Theft Bill

June 07 , 2004 in Industry News

New Identity Theft Laws Will Provide Assistance To Victims And Law Enforcement

Contact: William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, (802) 828 0269 or Julie Brill, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828 3658

June 7, 2004 – Attorney General William H. Sorrell and Senators Dick Sears (Bennington) and John Bloomer (Rutland) announced at a press conference in Manchester today that a bill to protect consumers from identity theft has been passed by the Legislature. Governor Jim Douglas is expected to sign the bill into law tomorrow. The bill creates a new crime of identity theft, and provides new tools to assist victims.

“Identity theft is a big problem getting bigger both here in Vermont and nationally. The financial losses to victims, both individuals and businesses, are staggering,” said Attorney General Sorrell. Identity theft occurs when a thief takes over a consumer’s entire identity by stealing critical private information (such as SSN, driver’s license number, address, credit card number or bank account number) so that the thief can use the stolen information to obtain illegal loans or credit lines to buy goods or services under the stolen name. Usually the identity thief changes the consumer’s mailing address on new or old accounts to hide his or her illegal activities.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the economy loses $50 billion per year due to identity theft. Business losses amount to $45 billion per year. On average, individual victims lose between $500 and $1200, for a total annual loss to consumers of $5 billion. Victims typically have to spend between 30 and 60 hours to resolve their own identity theft problems.

In Vermont, the reported incidences of identity theft are on the rise. In 2003, 159 Vermont victims filed a report with the FTC relating to identity theft, representing the top complaint category in the FTC’s database. Although the victims are located throughout Vermont, the top locations of victims are Burlington, Bennington, Montpelier, Cavendish, Rutland, and Winooski. The bill has several provisions designed to help prevent identity theft, and to help victims of identity theft from being harmed further. The key provisions:

Allow consumers to place a “security freeze” on their credit reports. The security freeze allows consumers to stop the use of their credit report to open new accounts unless the consumer gives the business specific authority to review the credit report.
Require local and state police to accept complaints about identity theft. In the past, victims of identity theft had difficulty filing complaints with police departments.
Require credit card issuers who are offering new credit cards through the mail to verify changes in addresses of consumers.
Prohibit the posting or displaying of Social Security numbers in public places, and requires the Administration to study the use of Social Security numbers and report on ways to limit such use next year.
Allow an executor or next of kin to notify credit reporting agencies when a consumer is deceased, so that the credit report isn’t used inappropriately.
Creates the crime of identity theft.

“I am grateful to the Legislature. Passing this law gives us more weapons to fight those who commit these crimes. It also helps us to protect victims from seeing bad situations turn much worse,” said Attorney General Sorrell.

Attorney General Sorrell noted that Senator Richard Sears (D) of Bennington County and Senator John Bloomer® of Rutland County were instrumental in ensuring that the bill passed this year. In addition, Attorney General Sorrell recognized the critical efforts of Rep. Mark Young® of Orwell, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and Rep. Maureen Dakin (D) of Colchester, an original sponsor of the bill, in shepherding the bill through the Legislature.