CHICAGO – In his ongoing effort to protect people throughout Illinois from a growing form of identity theft, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced today a series of proposals to crackdown on the unauthorized release or sale of phone records and other private information by brokers and phone companies. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Illinois would become the first state in the nation to fight “pretexting,” which is pretending to be the account holder, or have authorization to access an account, to obtain cell phone records, long distance call records and other personal records, such as GM OnStar information.
“Having your phone records stolen is not only an invasion of privacy, but it creates serious public safety issues. As we continue to aggressively try to stop all kinds of identity theft in Illinois, we must do everything possible to keep information brokers from obtaining and profiting from your calls to doctors, businesses or your personal relationships. With the click of a mouse, criminals can also potentially obtain the identities of undercover police officers or crime victims. This is outrageous and will not be tolerated in Illinois,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
“It is shocking how easily cell phone records can be purchased - especially the records of law enforcement officials that should be confidential. This type of activity puts everyone at risk. Consumers deserve protection from unauthorized invasions of privacy. I am working closely with Gov. Blagojevich to offer legislation in the spring session to provide protection and penalties for illegal sales or acquisition of these records,” said Senate President Emil Jones, Jr. (D-Chicago).
The proposed legislation would:
1.) Make it illegal for brokers to sell or release private information, including account records, identifying information, personal data or location of any Illinois resident or business. Residency would be determined by account holder billing information.
2.) Make it illegal for phone companies to sell or release private information, including account records, identifying information, personal data or location of any Illinois resident or business. Phone companies can release private information for legitimate business purposes, including proper requests made by the account holder, law enforcement purposes and court orders.
3.) Require phone companies to a) maintain appropriate privacy measures, and b) notify consumers when there has been a security breach and information has been released.
Each company violation would be punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 per occurrence (for example, every item on a report would trigger up to a $10,000 fine). There will also be increased criminal penalties for “pretexting,” hacking phone record information and employee theft of phone company information.
“Illinoisans shouldn’t fear their private information like phone records are for sale. Gov. Blagojevich’s proposals take the right steps by criminalizing the sale of phone records and holding companies more accountable to how they handle our personal information,” Illinois PIRG Senior Policy Advocate Brian Imus said.
EPIC says there are currently 40 Web sites practicing cell phone “pretexting.” In most cases, these brokers only need a billing address and another piece of personal information to obtain these records. They do not need a person’s Social Security number.
Since January 1st, thousands of Illinoisans are now armed with additional tools to shield themselves from the risk of identity theft as several laws signed by Gov. Blagojevich offer a significantly wider range of consumer protections. The laws help victims recover from identity theft more quickly and better protect individuals’ personal information.
Last summer, the Governor signed into law several pieces of legislation that deal with identity theft, including:
HB 1633, which requires companies to notify Illinois consumers if personal information is compromised;
HB 1058, which allows victims of identity theft to freeze their credit reports;
SB 123, which requires the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to phase in new Conservation ID (CID) numbers to replace Social Security numbers on hunting and fishing licenses.
These new laws are helping provide Illinoisans with peace of mind and protection from the fastest growing crime in the country. Last year alone, identity thieves cost consumers $550 million. On average, victims will spend about 600 hours and $1,500 repairing their credit. These laws are helping individuals take steps to protect their assets and identities before thieves wreak havoc on their credit.