Attorney General Jack Conway and Rep. Robin Webb of Grayson recently filed legislation that will help protect the identities of Kentuckians and update laws to keep pace with changes in technology. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Glenn of Owensboro and Rep. John Vincent of Ashland.
“This bill is a lifeline for consumers across our commonwealth who’ve lived the nightmare of having their identities stolen,” Conway said. “The legislation that Rep. Webb and I crafted protects consumers and provides avenues for them to help repair their good name.”
"Identity theft is becoming the fastest-growing financial crime in America and Kentucky,” said Rep. Webb. “This bill will protect victims of identity theft through better notification procedures, stronger legal options and better oversight from businesses."
The law will require businesses to notify residents if their personal information, such as a bank account number or Social Security number, has been compromised by improper disposal of paper records or an online security breach. Businesses must take reasonable steps to protect and properly dispose of personal information. If information is compromised, businesses could be civilly liable for losses incurred by consumers.
HB 553 will also require businesses to keep Social Security numbers hidden in mailings, remove as identification numbers on benefit cards and require security measures for Web sites where consumers enter their Social Security numbers.
The legislation will criminalize the practice of “phishing,” where e-mails or Web sites mimicking legitimate businesses are created to scam consumers. The law will allow victims, the Attorney General, Internet service providers and owners of Web sites or trademarks to sue the perpetrator for injunctive relief or damages.
In addition, the law will improve the efficiency of the legal process for individuals who are victims of identity theft. HB 553 will expedite the process for residents to obtain a Circuit Court order that could be used to dispute fraudulent charges. The law will require all local law enforcement agencies to process identity theft complaints and provide copies to victims. Identity theft education will also be incorporated into basic training for all police officers. The law expands the scope of identity theft violations to which victims may seek civil relief against criminals who have perpetrated these crimes.
The bill will also strengthen Kentucky’s existing harassing communications statute by clarifying that the law also applies when a perpetrator uses another person’s identity when sending an offending communication.
House Bill 553 will be assigned to a committee for review and a vote. For more information on HB 553, visit ag.ky.gov.
Identity Theft Prevention Tips
In 2006, more than eight million Americans were the victims of identity theft. The Office of the Kentucky Attorney General, the state’s chief consumer protection agency, has received more than 800 complaints of identity theft since 2005; more than 300 of those complaints were registered last year.
The Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection works with victims to help protect and reclaim their identities. A tool kit is available online at ag.ky.gov or by calling the Office of the Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-800-804-7556. The tool kit contains information on how to repair credit, file police reports and prepare sworn affidavits.
To protect their identities, consumers should be aware of the following tips:
- Do not keep a Social Security card in a wallet or purse;
- Do not put bills or checks in your home mailbox for pickup;
- Check credit reports, bank statements and credit card statements often for irregularities;
- Shred all documents that contain personal information;
- Never provide personal information over phone or the Internet to someone claiming to be your bank or credit card company; and
- Do not store credit card numbers on shopping Web sites.
Visit ag.ky.gov to stop receiving preapproved credit card offers and junk mail.
Attorney General Conway has pledged to create an Internet Crimes Unit that will crack down on crimes committed online, including identity theft, scams and solicitation of minors. The investigative unit will be operational this spring.