Virginia Governor Seeks ID Theft Protection, Credit Freeze Measure

By | January 7, 2008

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said last week that he will ask the General Assembly to pass legislation guarding against identity theft and credit fraud.

Kaine made the announcement at the Virginia headquarters of the AARP, which supports the consumer protection measures.

Identity theft is “a malicious crime,” Kaine said, adding that older people who have worked for years to build a good credit history feel most vulnerable.

Bill Kallio, state director of AARP, agreed. He said 81 percent of older consumers surveyed by AARP were “concerned about becoming a victim of identify theft and having their credit compromised in some way.”

One of the measures proposed by Kaine would require companies to notify consumers if their personal information — Social Security, driver’s license or account numbers, for example — is accidentally compromised or made public.

“Consumers should be made aware so they can take steps to protect their own credit,” Kaine said.

Such steps might include putting a freeze on the consumer’s credit report. Kaine’s second proposal would allow the consumer to initiate such a freeze to prevent any new accounts from being opened in the consumer’s name.

Credit reporting agencies would be allowed to charge a $5 fee for starting or lifting a freeze, although the fee would be waived for identity theft victims. The freeze would not prevent inquiries from law enforcement or debt collectors, or reporting by creditors with whom the consumer already has a relationship, Kaine said.

Kaine acknowledged that many companies already voluntarily disclose breaches of personal information, and the major credit reporting agencies have gotten better about responding to consumers’ ID theft concerns.

However, he said putting the protections into law would standardize the practices and ensure that they remain in place.

The 60-day legislative session begins Wednesday.

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