Tuesday, February 8, 2005

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Attorney General Abbott Applauds New Measure To Fight Identity Theft In Texas

AUSTIN – Attorney General Greg Abbott today welcomed legislation proposed by State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, that would better enable the Office of the Attorney General to protect Texans against the growing menace of identity theft. SB 122, called the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, would also make it easier for Texans to prove they have been identity theft victims.

View Attorney General Abbott talking about identity theft

“I thank Sen. Hinojosa for his leadership in empowering consumers and law enforcement to more effectively fight perpetrators of identity theft,” said Attorney General Abbott. “This crime has already taken billions of dollars from millions of families around the country, and we must do everything in our power to prevent it from taking a further toll.”

ID Theft: A Growing Threat
(Click to Enlarge)

Sen. Hinojosa responded: “Identity thieves not only steal from consumers and from businesses. Families are also losing credit worthiness and valuable time trying to fix the damage done by these criminals. Its devastating effects can last for years, and my objective is for this measure to keep families from losing additional money and time, and to enlist the Attorney General in making the perpetrators face justice.”

SB 122 would authorize the Attorney General to take legal action against those who engage in identity theft, including seeking restitution for victims and fines ranging from $2,000 to $50,000 per violation. Under the proposed law, penalties could also be applied against businesses that mishandle consumers’ personal information and cause it to fall into the hands of identity thieves.

Additionally, SB 122 would make it easier for Texans to prove they have been victims of identity theft. The law would require peace officers to create a written report whenever a consumer alleges being a victim. Consumers could, in turn, present those reports to credit reporting bureaus to help clear their names. Identity theft victims would also be able to ask state district courts directly to issue orders reflecting that they were victims of identity theft.

According to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report issued last week, Texas ranks second among the states in the number of victims of identity theft filing reports with the commission (26,454) and fourth in victims per capita filing complaints (117.6 per 100,000). Three Texas metropolitan areas rank in the top 10 areas of the country reporting identity theft.

A 2003 FTC study reveals more than $52 billion is lost annually to identity theft. The average incident of identity theft causes $500 in losses to the victim, and $4,800 in losses to businesses and financial institutions. The average victim spends 30 hours trying to clear his or her name.

To contact Sen. Hinojosa’s office, call Melissa del Bosque at (512) 463-0120.

Senate Bill No. 122

FTC Report: National and State Trends in Identity Theft 2004

How to avoid identity theft