Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. announced that he will introduce a legislative package during next year’s legislative session to better protect Maryland citizens from the quickly growing problem of identity theft.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 40 percent of all complaints it receives now deal with identity theft, and the state of Maryland ranks 13th among states in volume of identity theft complaints filed with the FTC. In the past months, there have reportedly been numerous security breaches of consumers’ personal information; in one particular case 40 million accounts were made vulnerable.
As part of this initiative, Curran will ask the General Assembly to enact two bills that he sought last session. Curran will propose a breach notification bill, which would require notification of consumers when their personal information has been breached so that they may take prompt action to protect themselves. The bill also would require companies to maintain adequate security for consumers’ personal information, including encryption of personally identifiable information and destruction of information in a manner that prevents its use by identity thieves.
The second bill is a security freeze bill that would allow consumers to instruct a credit bureau to restrict access to their credit reports, which would help prevent an identify thief from purchasing items in the victim’s name or opening new credit accounts.
“The problem of identity theft, and personal information being breached, has gotten out of hand. I am outraged at the somewhat cavalier attitude of many businesses with regard to how they protect your personal information,” said Curran. He added, “these two bills are just a first step.” Curran will hold an Identity Theft Forum in November, to which he will be inviting privacy experts, state legislators, and Maryland citizens who have been victims of these types of breaches to examine other measures that should be considered to address the problem.
Curran said that, while a task force to study identity theft established during the last legislative session was a good idea, there are measures needed to protect Maryland citizens that can and should be taken well before the task force issues its report in December 2006.
Curran added that there is no guarantee that legislation being considered at the federal level will even be enacted, let alone provide adequate protection for Maryland consumers.
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