Identify Theft Protection Measure Clears Okla. House

Victims of identity theft would be given prompt notice of the crime and the opportunity to minimize losses under legislation approved recently by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

House Bill 2357, by state Rep. Dale DePue, would require every state agency, board, commission “or other unit or subdivision of state government” that handles citizens’ personal information to disclose “any” security breach that involves the potential theft of citizens’ personal data.

“Identity theft is a growing problem that can lead to severe economic consequences before a victim even knows the crime has occurred,” said DePue, R-Guthrie. “If a criminal manages to steal personal information from the government, we have an obligation to not only catch the crook, but also alert victims as soon as possible.”

House Bill 2357 requires that citizens be given written notification of a state security breach (either by mail or electronic means) “in the most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay.”

The bill allows a delay of notification only if a law enforcement agency determines that the notification will impede a criminal investigation. It also allows for “substitute notice” if the agency demonstrates that the cost of providing notice would exceed $250,000 or the number of affected citizens exceeds 500,000. Substitute notice includes e-mail notification, “conspicuous posting of the notice on the agency’s web site page” and notification to major statewide media.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an estimated 3.6 million households (or about 3 percent of all households in the nation) learned they had been victims of at least one type of identity theft during a six-month period in 2004.

Forty-eight percent of those victims experienced an unauthorized use of credit cards; 25 percent had other accounts, such as banking accounts, used without permission; 15 percent experienced the misuse of personal information and 12 percent experienced multiple types of theft at the same time.

About two-thirds of the households victimized by identity theft reported an average loss of $1,290, according to the DOJ, and overall estimated identity theft losses during the 6-month period totaled about $3.2 billion.

DePue noted that enormous security breaches have occurred at government institutions, placing the financial security of law-abiding citizens at risk.

The most recent and glaring example involved the personal information of millions of U.S. veterans, which was stolen from a federal Department of Veterans Affairs employee. The theft involved 26.5 million Social Security numbers, dates of birth and numerical disability ratings.

“Because we’re entrusted with citizens’ personal information, government has an obligation to protect that information from theft and do all it can to aid citizens whenever a security breach occurs,” DePue said. “House Bill 2357 provides an extra layer of security for Oklahomans.”

House Bill 2357 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a vote of 98-0. It now awaits a final vote in the state Senate and, if approved, will then go to the governor for his signature.

Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives