Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher on Monday unveiled a proposal to require financial institutions, brokerages, insurance companies and agencies to use greater care when they dispose of consumer records containing personal, financial and medical information.
In the past year, the Department of Financial Services has received several reports of sensitive information being disposed of along with everyday office trash in public dumpsters. Access to these kinds of documents reportedly creates the potential for identity theft, an increasingly widespread form of financial fraud.
A survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that more than 27 million Americans became ID theft victims in the last five years, resulting in more than $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses. The same survey determined that ID theft cost the financial services industry nearly $50 billion.
“If scam artists gain access to personal and financial information, they can wreak havoc with a consumer’s finances,” Gallagher said. “That’s why I’m urging state lawmakers to take steps to protect Florida consumers from identity theft, the nation’s fastest growing crime.”
Senate bill 1624, sponsored by Sen. Jim Sebesta, along with the version sponsored by the House Commerce Committee, provides the Department of Financial Services, Office of Financial Regulation and Office of Insurance Regulation with the authority to set rules for the financial services industry in Florida for the proper destruction of records containing personal, financial and medical information.
In addition to promoting this legislation, Gallagher’s office has issued several consumer alerts warning consumers about the dangers of ID theft. The department has created an online resource on ID theft. Consumers can log on to www.fldfs.com and click the “ID Theft” banner to visit the site. Tips on avoiding this type of crime include shredding junk mail credit card offers, reviewing all bank and credit card records, and checking credit reports at least once a year.
Monitoring financial account activity is also reportedly extremely important.
According to the FTC, 52 percent of identity theft victims discovered they were victims by monitoring their accounts. More than 67 percent of victims reported that their credit card accounts were commandeered, representing the largest portion of respondents.
“Consumers must be more than cautious to avoid identity theft scams – they must be downright aggressive,” Gallagher added. “However, state lawmakers should ensure consumers are protected against careless handling of their personal, financial and medical information.”
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