SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich applauded the Illinois Senate today for taking a significant step forward in the fight to protect Illinoisans from identity theft and the release of their private information. The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2554 that would outlaw “pretexting.” Pretexting is pretending to be an account holder, or to have authorization to access an account, to obtain cell phone records, long distance call records, a person’s physical location and other personal records, such as GM OnStar information and any other account information relating to that person, such as dating service information or post office boxes. Gov. Blagojevich called for tough new restrictions on the practice, as he announced a series of new consumer protection proposals in January. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Illinois would be among the first states in the nation to fight cell phone record pretexting. SB 2554 is sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein (D – Chicago).
“It’s frightening to know that the private information of cell phone users all across Illinois is up on the auction block at dozens of unregulated websites,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I commend the Senate for passing this important piece of legislation and urge the House to follow suit, so that we can provide the same kind of protection for cell phone records that is already offered for private financial information.”
According to EPIC, there are currently dozens of websites practicing cell phone “pretexting.” In most cases, these brokers only need a person’s cell phone number to obtain these records. In a demonstration of just how easy it is to obtain personal cell phone records, in January a blogger was able to obtain the call history of former presidential candidate and NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark in just a few hours for less than $100.
"Identity theft is growing while our rights to privacy in this country are certainly shrinking," said Sen. Silverstein. "This legislation should help move both of those issues respectively to the middle, hardening the standards on identity theft and providing more privacy to consumers."
SB 2554 would make it illegal to use any personal identification information or personal identification document of another to portray himself or herself as that person without permission, for the purpose of gaining access to any personal identification information or personal identification document of that person.
The legislation also makes it illegal to use any personal identification information or personal identification document of another for the purpose of gaining access to any record of the actions taken, communications made or received, or other activities or transactions of that person, without the prior express permission of that person. If a person is convicted of this crime, in the absence of proof of actual damages, the identity theft victim may recover $2,000 in damages.
The legislation now moves to the House for consideration.
Since January 1, everyone in Illinois has been armed with additional tools to shield themselves from the risk of identity theft thanks to several laws signed by Gov. Blagojevich that 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; and
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.