(Host) The Senate has given its final approval to legislation that makes it a crime to steal someone’s identity for the purpose of illegally obtaining merchandise in the victim’s name. Backers of the bill say it’s one of the fastest growing crimes in the country.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel has the details.
(Kinzel) Law enforcement officials estimate roughly 10 million people had their identity stolen last year and that several billion dollars in merchandise and cash were stolen as part of this crime. Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears says the crime takes place when thieves use a victim’s social security number or credit card information to open new accounts – often using a different address.
Then the thieves quickly run up huge bills and the victim is often not aware of the situation for weeks after the crime has taken place – usually the victims learn about the crime when the credit card company calls and inquires as to when the victim is planning to pay their large outstanding bill:
(Sears) “identity thieves use this information to open credit accounts, bank accounts, telephone service accounts, and make major purchases all in your name, information can be used to take over your existing accounts to open new accounts and identity theft can result in damage to your credit rating and denials of credit and job offers.”
(Kinzel) Sears says he’s concerned that consumers are being asked by many businesses and government agencies to provide their social security number for various applications.
Sears says obtaining a person’s social security number is the golden key that opens numerous doors involving the individual’s credit and financial status. He says there are cases where the state of Vermont requests social security information when it really isn’t needed:
(Sears) “but you know another interesting way you can get information you can just go to your town clerk’s office. I have in my hand a copy of the liquor license from Bennington, on your liquor license it gives me all the information I would need to go right to your town clerk’s office look at your liquor license and get all the information I need to do identity theft.”
(Kinzel) Sears says passage of this bill is the top consumer protection issue of the session. Because the Senate made some changes to a similar bill that passed the House, House members will now decide if they want to accept the Senate’s version of the legislation or set up a conference committee to discuss those changes.