OLYMPIA – Attorney General Rob McKenna announced new recommendations for reducing identity theft in Washington during a press conference today at the State Capitol.
McKenna unveiled a report from the state’s first Identity Theft Summit, then testified on behalf of legislation that would amend Washington’s credit report security freeze law to protect more consumers.
“Washington now ranks seventh in the nation per capita for reported identity theft crimes,” McKenna said. “The Attorney General’s Office has made fighting identity theft a top priority. Today, we are bringing forth a handful of initiatives and legislation. Members of my office’s Identity Theft Summit Advisory Panel and I believe these recommendations will help reduce identity theft in our state by increasing prosecution, improving consumer education and better assisting victims."
The Attorney General’s new report was taken from suggestions offered by the nearly 300 participants who attended McKenna’s statewide Identity Theft Summit last November. Attendees at the summit included law enforcement, prosecutors, identity theft victims, legislators, experts from financial and retail associations, government agencies and consumer advocates.
“Summit participants offered innovative suggestions to improve coordination and communication among both public and private sector organizations that share a role in battling identity theft,” McKenna said. “They also shared excellent ideas for strategically responding to identity theft with legislation and industry policies.”
McKenna was joined at today’s press conference by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, and Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake. Both have introduced proposed legislation to address recommendations in the summit report.
McKenna testified today on behalf of Senate Bill 6665, a proposal by Kohl-Welles that would amend Washington’s credit report security freeze law.
“Under Washington’s law, a stolen wallet alone would not be sufficient grounds for requesting a freeze; you’d have to wait until a thief uses your personal information to commit a crime,” McKenna said. “Senator Kohl-Welles’ bill would allow all consumers, not just victims of identity theft, to request a freeze for prevention purposes. Summit attendees, consumers and members of the Identity Theft Advisory Panel have all suggested that this legislation is necessary for potential victims to feel confident that identity thieves will not destroy their credit.”
McKenna said implementing the following recommendations will be among his top priorities in the coming year:
- Coordinate a public training and communication campaign that includes a tool kit for consumers and businesses, mass communications and training.
- Centralize victims’ services by promoting a one-stop location for resources and assistance.
- Increase coordination among law enforcement, prosecutors and private sector fraud and loss prevention units. This could be achieved through work groups, databases or other initiatives for sharing information.
- Amend Washington’s credit report security freeze law to include consumers concerned about the potential for future identity theft.
- Create a safe harbor for sharing information between law enforcement and business.
- Authorize and ensure interstate compliance with the criminal process. This may be achieved with regulations to help ensure that private sector entities, particularly those with headquarters outside of Washington, provide information relevant to local civil and criminal investigations.
In addition, the summit report offers suggestions for legislation that should be implemented before the end of the 2007 legislative session:
- Increase penalties for identity theft crimes and better define identity theft.
- Require background checks on state employees who handle personal information.
- Provide funding for additional staff in the Washington State Patrol’s identity theft investigation unit.
- Incorporate biometric data into driver’s licenses and state identification.
- Establish a means for business and private sector groups to voluntarily help fund criminal justice positions and programs for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of identity theft crimes.
“The Attorney General’s Office will take a leadership role in several of these initiatives,” McKenna said. “But we cannot accomplish these goals without the help of other leaders in the public and private sectors. As we move forward, we will be looking for guidance and assistance from experts willing to join us in our mission to make Washington the safest state in the nation for consumers and their personal information.”
Copies of the Identity Theft Advisory Panel’s summit report will soon be available online.
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