SPRINGFIELD – Taking action to protect Illinoisans’ private information from identity thieves, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 2554 outlawing the practice of “pretexting” in Illinois. 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. The Governor called for tough new restrictions on the practice in January. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Illinois is among the first states in the nation to fight cell phone record pretexting.
“Before we signed this legislation, identity thieves were able to go on the Internet and sell personal phone account information to the highest bidder,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Now, identity thieves are on notice – we do not tolerate violations of personal privacy in Illinois. If you don’t respect the law, you’ll face stiff penalties.”
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.
SB 2554, sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein (D – Chicago) and Representative Aaron Schock (R-Peoria), makes it illegal for an identity thief to use somebody else’s personal identification information or personal identification document 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. It also makes it illegal to use personal identifying information to gain access to a person’s transactions, actions or communications such as cell phone call records.
“I am pleased the Governor has signed this legislation and continued to help the State of Illinois set the curve on stopping identity theft,” said Sen. Silverstein. “Younger children, adults, and especially seniors are all at an increased risk of being a victim of identity theft in a time where information is so readily available and easily attainable by way of the Internet. This legislation will hinder the practices of identity thieves, toughen the penalties for committing the crimes, and most importantly protect our privacy.”
“This legislation closes a grievous loophole to ensure private information is kept that way and is an important step in protecting people from the horror of identity theft,” said Rep. Shock. “I thank the Governor for signing this bi- partisan bill as part of his comprehensive program to prevent identity theft.”
The legislation also adds user names, passwords, and any other information used to access information about an individual or their actions, transactions, or communications to the list of information protected as personal identifying information. The first violation is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2-5 years in jail. If someone pretexts to get information about 3 or more separate people within a 12-month period it is a Class 2 felony, carrying a sentence of 3-7 years in jail. 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.
This year, Gov. Blagojevich has signed several additional pieces of legislation that will protect personal information and combat identity theft, including:
SB2310, which allows Illinois residents to put a security freeze on their credit report if they believe their personal information has been compromised;
HB4179, which prohibits identity theft offenders from changing their names; and
HB4438 and HB4449, which give state employees and agencies additional requirements for properly disposing of personal information and notifying residents if their information has been compromised.
Governor Blagojevich also signed a series of laws last year to help shield Illinoisans from the risk of identity theft. These include:
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.