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It's Time to Help Prevent Identity Theft and Protect Our Data
By Sen. Gene Therriault and Sen. Gretchen Guess


April 12, 2006
Wednesday PM

Whether you have been a victim of identity theft, worry about it, or just value your privacy like most Alaskans, now is the time to urge your legislators to ratchet up the fight to protect you. Why the urgency?

Our current laws require no accountability from either the private sector or government entities that use and sell your personal information. The 2005 ChoicePoint scandal (a breach of 145,000 customer records) proved to be the tip of a very large iceberg. Since then, over 130 documented major data breaches have occurred in banks, universities, hospitals, government institutions and other entities. In response, more than half the states are now actively working to provide tighter security measures to protect consumer information.

Identity theft causes serious and often long-term damage. Identity thieves use your personal information to apply for credit cards, loans, and various types of retail accounts. It is one of the fastest growing types of crime. Over 27 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the last five years, taking $5 billion out of consumers' pockets every year. Alaska ranks first in the nation for the rate of fraud complaints, with 421 incidents of identity theft reported. In the few minutes it takes to finish reading this column, about 40 Americans will become new victims.

Even after victims clear themselves of often-large debts, they are still left with the arduous task of correcting their credit reports. On average, these victims spend $1,180 dollars and 60 hours to restore their credit.

To fight identity theft and protect your personal information, we introduced Senate Bill 222 (SB 222), which does the following.

  • Restricts the sale and trade of your personal information.
  • Helps prevent the accidental loss of personal information by requiring destruction of records before disposal.
  • Ensures Alaskans are notified when their personal information may be at risk due to a security breach.
  • Allows Alaskans to protect themselves by freezing their credit report.
  • Provides Alaskans greater access to their credit reports to ensure accuracy and catch identity theft early.
  • Helps victims of identity theft recover by providing the right to file a police report and petition courts for a declaration of innocence.

Certain users of your personal information want to be exempt from these reforms. Rather than allow that and leave citizens completely unprotected in some areas, we have chosen instead to address legitimate industry concerns on a point-by-point basis.

Even with current reform efforts, privacy statements from some major companies inform their customers that, "to the extent permitted by law, we may disclose to affiliated or nonaffiliated third parties nonpublic personal information that we collect about our customers." It is clear from testimony and disclaimers such as these that whatever is not expressly prohibited in legislation will continue to be shared between affiliated and non-affiliated companies.

SB 222 recognizes the importance of closing all loopholes that might allow a consumer's personal information to be compromised. It also recognizes the importance of promptly reporting security breaches that do occur so consumers may freeze their records and avoid further damage.

The personal information protected in SB 222 belongs to you. It does not belong to the government, or a business that uses or brokers your information. Your support is vital to overcome the constant lobbying effort in Juneau to weaken the bill.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, are concerned about the risk, or just value privacy, we encourage you to contact your legislators. Let them know you think it's time to start protecting Alaskans against identity theft and to protect our personal information. After all, it is your personal information, and it is your good name at stake.

About: Sen. Gene Therriault (R) represents District F - North Pole; and Sen. Gretchen Guess (D) represents District J - Anchorage.



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Ketchikan, Alaska