Mettetal column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Senate: New law freezes credit to protect against identity theft

One proposal that I have worked hard on and authored the past two years in the Mississippi Senate survived the 2007 legislative process and was signed into law by Governor Haley Barbour on April 21, 2007. Senate Bill 3034 provides added protection for Mississippians who are victims of identity theft.

Attorney General Jim Hood and his Consumer Protection Division have also worked very hard for the passage of this legislation that requires consumer reporting agencies to freeze credit on certain consumer files upon written request. These agencies can charge up to $10 for this service of placing a freeze on credit after receiving the written request and a copy of a valid police report.

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It is very important to always notify proper law enforcement if you suspect that your identity has been stolen or even if your personal identification items were stolen somehow.  Sixty-eight percent (68%) of identity crimes are committed with information obtained by the theft of wallets and checkbooks and sixty-two (62%) percent of identity theft victims do not notify law enforcement.

In America, every 79 seconds a thief steals someone’s identity and goes on a buying spree after opening accounts in the victims name. This new law should prevent much of  such crime from occurring in Mississippi if the consumer will react promptly and properly to freeze their credit.

Since our local senior citizens (including Triad members) were very interested in this legislation, I was surprised to learn that 10 percent of identity theft victims were 60 and above years old. In fact, 29 percent of the victims are only 18-29 years old. Never-the-less I am grateful to you seniors for your interest and input regarding this legislation. This is the proper way to pass laws and you deserve a lot of the credit for making this become law.

You would expect Arizona, Nevada and California to rank as the top three states in identity theft cases. Mississippi ranks 36th in such cases and hopefully this new law will improve that position.

The law also provides language for removing the credit freeze when the consumer considers that it is the appropriate time. Of course proper personal identification number or password must be provided. Much of our law is patterned after the Texas law and it is the same version of a credit freeze that I have pushed for the past two years. It has been such a pleasure to work with the business community for the benefit of the Mississippi consumer. I commend Attorney General Jim Hood for his willingness to work with all of us on this compromise.

We continue to work  hard for the safety and protection of you and your belongings and we encourage you to please protect your personal information and do not share it with any improper or undeserving individuals.

We thank this paper for their support and their informing you. Your concerns are very important to me.  Now that we are out of session, you can reach me at home at 662-487-1512.