- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — Gov. Tim Kaine yesterday said he will ask the General Assembly to pass legislation guarding against identity theft and credit fraud.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, made the announcement at the Virginia headquarters of the AARP, which supports the consumer protection measures.

Identity theft is “a malicious crime,” Mr. Kaine said, adding that older people who have worked for years to build a good credit history feel most vulnerable.

Bill Kallio, state director of AARP, agreed. He said 81 percent of older consumers surveyed by AARP were “concerned about becoming a victim of identity theft and having their credit compromised in some way.”

One of the measures proposed by Mr. Kaine would require companies to notify consumers if their personal information — Social Security, driver’s license or account numbers, for example — is accidentally compromised or made public.

“Consumers should be made aware so they can take steps to protect their own credit,” Mr. Kaine said.

Such steps might include putting a freeze on the consumer’s credit report. Mr. Kaine’s second proposal would allow the consumer to initiate such a freeze to prevent any new accounts from being opened in the consumer’s name.

Credit-reporting agencies would be allowed to charge a $5 fee for starting or lifting a freeze, though the fee would be waived if the consumer demonstrated a likelihood of becoming a fraud victim. The freeze would not prevent inquiries from law enforcement or debt collectors, or reporting by creditors with whom the consumer already has a relationship, Mr. Kaine said.

Mr. Kaine acknowledged that many companies already voluntarily disclose breaches of personal information, and the major credit-reporting agencies have improved responses to consumers’ identification theft concerns.

However, he said making the protections law would standardize the practices and ensure they remain in place.

The 60-day legislative session begins Wednesday.

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