SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — As part of National Fraud Awareness Week (July 11-17), Gov. Rod Blagojevich today signed a second piece of legislation that is expected to sharply curtail the unnecessary dissemination of Social Security numbers in Illinois – a leading cause of identity theft. House Bill 4712 drastically reduces the use of social security numbers as a personal identifier. Yesterday the Governor signed House Bill 2545, a bill that prohibits insurance companies from printing or embedding social security numbers on consumers’ insurance cards.
“We will do as much to protect people from criminals who misuse other people’s personal information as we do to protect them from criminals who use brute force,” said Governor Blagojevich.
According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the FTC, victims of identity theft and fraud spend 175 hours - more than four work weeks - and $1,000 out-of-pocket to clear their names.
House Bill 4712, sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Chicago) and Rep. Charles Morrow (D-Chicago), amends the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act to make it illegal to:
- Publicly post or display an individual's social security number;
- Print an individual's social security number on any card required to access products or services;
- Require an individual to transmit his or her social security number over the Internet;
- Require an individual to use his or her social security number to access an Internet web site; and
- Print an individual's social security number on materials that are mailed to the individual, subject to various exceptions.
“All of us are aware of the threat of identity theft,” said Obama. “This bill is one small step to offer consumers protection from the enormously draining consequences of identity theft.”
“Identity theft can lead to serious credit problems and hassles that take months to work out. I’m glad we’re able to do something today that makes it harder for criminals to get a hold of social security numbers. I think this new law will help save a lot of people the headache and expense of clearing their credit,” said Morrow.
Morrow and Obama worked with Wilverlyn Joye Williams, a Legal Studies student at the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS), on drafting the legislation.
“I want to thank Representative Morrow and Senator Obama for agreeing to sponsor this bill, and the Governor for signing it into law,” said Williams. “Not only did this project help me learn the inner workings of the legislative process, but it also gave me an opportunity to be part of a successful effort to make our laws more responsive to people’s needs.”
In 2003, Illinois residents lodged 10,681 fraud complaints and reported 9,792 instances of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that identity theft costs individuals and businesses more than $50 billion per year.
Gov. Blagojevich’s signing of HB 4712 and National Fraud Awareness Week mark 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.
The FTC recommends that individuals who suspect they have been victimized by identity theft should:
- Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on their credit file;
- Close the accounts that they believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently;
- File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to creditors and others that may require proof of the crime;
- File a complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps us learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that we can better assist you.