See what efforts the states with the highest incidents of identity theft are taking to protect, prevent and help their residents recover from identity theft ….and find out which state leads the way.
Individuals take many preventive steps to protect their identity and reduce their risk of identity theft. Not only consumers are taking steps to protect against identity theft, but many states are taking important steps to protect their residents. Among these steps are stiffer penalties, imposing sanctions and fines on careless companies and providing their residents with many tools necessary to correct the errors that identity theft has caused, both to their credit, medical or even in some cases criminal records.
Many identity theft savvy consumers are:
*Installing anti-spy ware software of their computers.
*Using shredders to shred personal documents before disposal.
*Being protective of social security numbers on-line and in public.
*Using services to stop junk mail and risky credit card applications.
While you may be taking all the right steps to protect yourself, businesses that have access to your information aren’t always looking for you. But many states are, such as Texas which is rapidly becoming a leader in consumer protection against identity theft. Texas has a growing reputation for being proactive in preventing identity theft and tough on punishing businesses who don’t comply. Texas law requires vendors to take specific precautions before disposing of personal documents that may include customers’ bank accounts, driver’s license and Social Security numbers. In the state of Texas, you can bet companies will be thinking twice before dumping your credit application in a public trash can.
Recent Identity Theft Threats Prosecuted in Texas:
Radio Shack in Portland was investigated for dumping sensitive information from thousands of customers into public trash cans. The records included names, social security numbers, debit and credit card numbers as well as addressed and telephone numbers. Among the documents were credit applications and receipts.
Under the settlement with Radio-Shack, the retailer is required to enhance security procedures and implement employee training. Radio Shack also agreed to unannounced compliance audits in all Texas stores bi-annually.
Select Medical was investigated after a report that over 4,000 documents were found in the garbage behind their Select Physical Therapy Location. These un-shredded records included bank account numbers, drug testing results, insurance verification sheets as well as sensitive social and vocational therapy questionnaires.
Select Medical will also be required to amend security procedures and implement training for Texas employees about the newly established state laws governing customer record disposal.
The insurance forms are of particular concern in light of the growing trend of medical identity theft, in which an individuals’ insurance information is used to obtain medical services or to commit insurance fraud.
Under the settlement agreement, the state of Texas will receive nearly $1.5 million in fines, including attorney’s fees. As outlined in the Identity Theft and Protection Act, the remainder will be used for the investigation and prosecution of future cases of identity theft.
Stiff penalties are just one of the steps taken to protect and prevent identity theft. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has created a checklist for victims of identity theft to take steps and track their progress during recovery.
The identity theft check list includes:
*Closing all fraudulent accounts made in your name.
*Contacting the 3 major credit reporting agencies and requesting a fraud alert or security freeze for new accounts.
*Reporting identity theft crimes for local law enforcement and obtaining a copy of the police report.
*Reporting identity theft crimes to Federal Trade Commission and completing and ID Theft Affidavit.
*If victims are being harassed by creditor’s they should file a consumer complaint with the Office of the Attorney General.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office also offers an Identity Theft Victim’s Kit.
Texas has a real motivation to prevent and protect victims of identity theft. According to 2006 state statistics on identity theft, Texas ranks fourth. States are ranked according to victims per 100,000 people, and it should be noted that Texas also has a higher population than many other states.
Top Ten States with the Most Victims of Identity Theft Per Capita
No matter where you live, identity theft is a real problem. Information, advocacy, laws and prosecutions in any state will ultimately help everyone but in the mean time consumers must educate themselves and arm themselves with protection against identity theft as well as the remedies available to them. With the continued efforts of law enforcement, state and federal agencies, stiffer fines and penalties as well as requiring a higher standard of care from businesses, progress is being made on many levels in protecting consumers.