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April 06, 2007
Attorney General McKenna Thanks Legislature for Preventing Identity Theft

OLYMPIA – Attorney General Rob McKenna today thanked the state Legislature for unanimously approving an important law that provides Washington residents with a new tool to protect themselves from potential identity theft and financial destruction. Substitute Senate Bill 5826 passed unanimously in both sides of the Legislature. An amendment added in the House must be approved by the Senate, after which the bill will be delivered to Governor Chris Gregoire for signing.

“Legislators united in their support of an important bill that gives all Washington residents the opportunity to freeze unauthorized access to their credit reports,” McKenna. “This crucial law allows individuals to reduce their risk of becoming identity theft victims. At the same time, it provides a quick, convenient method for consumers to thaw a freeze for the purpose of buying a car, obtaining a mortgage or applying for a new credit card.”

McKenna has made identity theft prevention a top priority for the Attorney General’s Office and has crusaded for a preventative freeze bill since 2005. Earlier this session, he joined legislators and leaders from AARP and the Washington Credit Union League in encouraging the Legislature to help Washington residents protect themselves from the snowballing threat of identity theft.

SSB 5826 amends Washington’s Fair Credit Reporting Act to allow  the availability of a credit freeze to all Washington consumers. Unlike a fraud alert, which places a statement on your credit report, a security freeze means that your credit file cannot be shared with potential creditors. A freeze can prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer's credit history first.

The new includes an easy ‘thaw’ mechanism to give consumers the option to allow temporary, restricted access to their credit files.

Washington’s existing statute, RCW 19.182.170, was passed in July 2005 and went into effect last year. It allows only identity theft victims and people whose information was stolen in a data breach to request a freeze. McKenna said the law doesn’t protect consumers whose personal information has been stolen until that information is actually used to commit fraud.

Under the new law, identity theft victims and seniors ages 65 and older will be able to place a freeze for free. Other consumers would pay to up $10 to each bureau for placement of a freeze, a temporary lift or removal. Consumers who aren’t entitled to a free freeze would therefore pay a total of $30 to freeze their reports with the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.  Pending approval from the Governor, the law will go into effect Sept. 1, 2008.

McKenna thanked the following for their leadership in passing a preventative credit freeze bill:

  • Senators Jean Berkey, D-Everett; Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, and others sponsors of SB 5826.
  •  Reps. Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver; Jay Rodne, R-North Bend; Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, and Rep. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma and chair of The House Insurance, Financial Services and Consumer Protection Committee, and others who sponsored similar bills in the House.
  • Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, for their support of identity theft prevention and for sponsoring credit freeze legislation during the 2005-2006 session.
  • AARP, the Washington Credit Union League and members of Washington’s Law Enforcement Group Against Identity Theft (LEGIT) for supporting credit freeze legislation.
  • Industry stakeholders including the Washington Bankers Association, Washington State Auto Dealers Association, Washington Association of Mortgage Brokers, and the insurance industry for helping tailor a bill that works to protect Washington consumers without impeding commerce.

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Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432

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