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New ID theft protections kick in Sunday, AG Cooper says

Release date: 9/28/2006

Laws to cut use of SSNs, require government to notify about breaches starting Oct. 1

Raleigh: North Carolinians will have more protection from identity theft thanks to new laws that take effect October 1, Attorney General Roy Cooper said today. The new laws require government to tell consumers when their information has been lost or stolen and limit how businesses can use Social Security Numbers.

Starting Sunday, state and local government must notify consumers if a security breach may have compromised their personal information and placed them at greater risk of identity theft. Cooper pushed through the new measure during the most recent legislative session to add to the protections put in place through last year’s comprehensive Identity Theft Protection Act, which already requires businesses to notify their customers about breaches.

“Government should have to play by the same rules as businesses and tell consumers when their information is at risk so they can take steps to protect themselves,” said Cooper.

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles recently notified 16,000 North Carolinians about the theft of a computer containing drivers’ information from their office in Louisburg.

The theft of a laptop earlier this year from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs put millions of veterans, military personnel and their families at higher risk of identity theft. Cooper helped push through a measure to allow effected North Carolinians to freeze their credit for free. The free security freezes are available through the end of 2006.

Consumers who get word that their information may have been compromised should check their credit reports and consider placing a freeze on their credit, Cooper’s office said. Cooper has launched and ID theft education initiative with additional tips for consumers as well as information on obtaining a credit freeze at www.noscamnc.gov.

Also as of Oct. 1, businesses cannot print consumers’ Social Security Number on cards needed to access products or services, such as health insurance. The law also prevents businesses from printing consumers SSNs on mailings or requiring customers to send their SSN over an insecure Internet connection. In addition, businesses cannot require people to use their SSN to log in to a website unless they also provide a unique password or identification number.

“The Social Security Number is the crowbar for an identity thief,” Cooper said. “These additional protections will help keep people’s personal information from falling into the wrong hands.”

These new requirements for SSNs are part of the Identity Theft Protection Act, a comprehensive law that Cooper pushed through in 2005 to make it harder for identity thieves to access consumers’ personal information. ###

NC Department of Justice y 9001 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-9001 y (919) 716-6400