New Jersey passes tough anti-identity-theft bill

June 27, 2005

Governor expected to sign legislation

Inman News

The New Jersey Legislature Thursday passed the "Identity Theft Prevention Act," a comprehensive act to help guard against identity theft and hence, by extension, mortgage fraud crimes that depend on identity theft.

On the heels of several high-profile security breaches of consumer data, the state Senate and Assembly both passed the Identity Theft Prevention Act. Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey is expected to sign it into law.

The bill contains a critical measure that allows consumers to put a security freeze on their credit reports to prevent unauthorized access.

The bill also limits the use and display of social security numbers, requires business to thoroughly destroy discarded documents and requires businesses to notify consumers if an unauthorized person accesses enough information to steal their identity.

The security freeze is the hallmark provision in the New Jersey legislation.

The features of New Jersey's security freeze are: (1) the credit reporting agencies must provide a convenient method of use, such as phone or internet; (2) the credit reporting agencies must lift the freeze as quickly as possible, with the goal being within 15 minutes; (3) the freeze is free to put on and $5 to temporarily lift; and (4) it is available to all consumers. Other states' freezes authorize but don't require a convenient method of use; allow up to three days to lift; cost more; and, in some states, are limited to Identity Theft victims only.

"This law's strong provisions and its broad, bipartisan support prove the Legislature is committed to solving the identity-theft problem," said Abigail Caplovitz of NJPIRG in a statement. "We look forward to the governor signing it into law."

Identity theft is often a critical element of mortgage fraud. Often, a mortgage fraud scheme will involve an unwitting "buyer" whose identity has been stolen and used to buy a property.

Copyright 2005 Inman News

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