Washington Passes ID Theft Law

The Washington legislature has passed a law designed to help reidents protect themselves from potential identity theft and financial destruction. Substitute Senate Bill 5826 passed unanimously in both sides of the Legislature and is scheduled to be delivered to Governor Chris Gregoire for signing.

“Legislators united in their support of an important bill that gives all Washington residents the opportunity to freeze unauthorized access to their credit reports,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna. “This crucial law allows individuals to reduce their risk of becoming identity theft victims. At the same time, it provides a quick, convenient method for consumers to thaw a freeze for the purpose of buying a car, obtaining a mortgage or applying for a new credit card.”

McKenna has made identity theft prevention a top priority for the Attorney General’s Office and has crusaded for a preventative freeze bill since 2005. Earlier this session, he joined legislators and leaders from AARP and the Washington Credit Union League in encouraging the Legislature to help Washington residents protect themselves from the snowballing threat of identity theft.

SSB 5826 amends Washington’s Fair Credit Reporting Act to allow the availability of a credit freeze to all Washington consumers. Unlike a fraud alert, which places a statement on your credit report, a security freeze means that your credit file cannot be shared with potential creditors. A freeze can prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer’s credit history first.

The new includes an easy ‘thaw’ mechanism to give consumers the option to allow temporary, restricted access to their credit files.

Washington’s existing statute, RCW 19.182.170, was passed in July 2005 and went into effect last year. It allows only identity theft victims and people whose information was stolen in a data breach to request a freeze. McKenna said the law doesn’t protect consumers whose personal information has been stolen until that information is actually used to commit fraud.

Under the new law, identity theft victims and seniors ages 65 and older will be able to place a freeze for free. Other consumers would pay to up $10 to each bureau for placement of a freeze, a temporary lift or removal. Consumers who aren’t entitled to a free freeze would therefore pay a total of $30 to freeze their reports with the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.

Source: Washington AG