N.J. Toughens Identity Theft Protections for Consumers

October 13, 2005

New Jersey Gov. Richard Codey has signed into law a package of identity theft safeguards with some of the toughest protections in the nation against such fraud.

Consumer advocates have hailed the new law as a model for other states and Congress.

“Identity theft takes a huge emotional toll on victims and often ruins their credit records, which limits their financial opportunities and can even prevent them from getting a job,” said Gail Hillebrand, director of Consumers Union’s Financial Privacy Now campaign. “New Jersey’s law will help reduce the risk of fraud and arm consumers with important new rights to prevent identity theft.”

The New Jersey law allows all consumers to place a security freeze on their credit files to prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts in their names. A security freeze enables the consumer to prevent anyone from looking at his or her own credit files for the purpose of granting credit unless the consumer chooses to let that particular business look at the information. Under the New Jersey law, all consumers can place a security freeze on their credit files for free and lift it temporarily for $5 when applying for credit. New Jersey is now the 12th state to adopt some form of security freeze law.

New Jersey’s Identity Theft Prevention Act also requires businesses that discard personal information about customers to destroy it thoroughly and to notify consumers when sensitive information maintained about them has been accessed by an unauthorized person. The law limits the use of Social Security numbers by prohibiting their display on most mailed materials and on membership cards.

Finally, the law requires police departments to take identity theft reports from victims living in their jurisdictions, which some currently refuse to do.

“There is no single answer to fighting identity theft, but New Jersey’s law offers a strong blueprint for lawmakers across the country working to protect consumers from this fast-growing form of financial crime,” said Hillebrand.

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