CHICAGO, Ill. — Nearly 10,000 Illinois residents reported to the Federal Trade Commission that they were victims of identity theft last year. Today, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation that should reduce that number by keeping Social Security numbers off of insurance cards.
“It is unfortunate that pulling an essential piece of identification out of a purse or wallet for just a few seconds is an open door to identity theft, but that is often the reality of the situation,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “This bill provides real protection by ending the practice of printing or embedding Social Security numbers on insurance cards.”
Sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago), Senate Bill 2545 amends the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act to end the placement of Social Security numbers on insurance cards by January 1, 2006. Insurers would be required to utilize another unique identifier for their policy holders. For instance, Allstate and State Farm have already gone to a system using drivers’ license, rather than Social Security, numbers on insurance cards.
“Identity theft is a crime that often happens without anyone even knowing until it is too late. Its effect can devastate consumers for years as they try to clean up the damage that these unscrupulous individuals have done. Identity theft impacts us all because the billions of dollars it costs financial institutions in damages drives up other costs,” said Martinez. “Removing social security numbers from insurance cards is one additional protection that this law will provide to Illinois consumers to keep them safe from identity theft.”
“In a time when identity theft continues to rise, the Governor's action today helps Illinois stay at the forefront of the battle to protect consumers from fraudulent activities that can take months or years to correct,” said Fritchey.
The bill signing marks the first anniversary of FRAUD-NET in Illinois, a collaborative effort to share information on fraudulent activity between financial institutions and law enforcement agencies online. In addition, the Illinois Bankers Association and Association of Certified Fraud Examiners are working with state agencies to educate businesses and consumers about how to detect, report and deter fraud.
In 2003, Illinois residents lodged 10,681 fraud complaints and reported 9,792 instances of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that identity theft costs individuals and businesses more than $10 billion per year.