Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Identity Theft Legislation on Beacon Hill

Today’s Globe reports that a legislative committee is about to report out a bill increasing the penalties for stealing someone’s identity. The full legislature is expected to consider the bill later this summer. One rather controversial provision that has been omitted from this bill deals with “credit freezes.” As I understand it, in a state with a credit freeze law, a consumer can direct credit reporting agencies to freeze that person’s report, preventing the credit agency from issuing a copy of the report to anyone seeking it. Let’s say a wrongdoer applies for a credit card using your name and personal information such as your social security number. Before any company will issue a new credit card, that company will want to see the applicant’s credit report. With a credit freeze in effect, no report may be given and presumably, no new credit card will be issued. When the consumer legitimately wants to obtain a new credit card or a car or home loan, the consumer must request a limited “thaw” of the credit freeze to allow a report to be issued to the new creditor. Sounds like a lot of work which invites the question, who will pay for it. In most states that have such a law, it is the consumer who pays, usually something like $10 to freeze the credit report and $5 each time it has to be thawed. Because there’s a fee involved, not many people utilize this even where it is allowed by law so its effectiveness is questionable. But at least the state legislature is trying to address this problem. All this talk of freezes and thaws seems a little out of place on such a warm, sunny day. On another note, thanks to Assistant Register Tony Accardi for the superb job he did in maintaining the blog while I was vacationing in Canada. It was a great trip although the temperature never made it beyond 33 degrees any day we were there.

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