For Immediate Release - March 29, 2005

Consumer Affairs Office Teams With Notaries To Further Combat Identity Theft

Director Lindstrom Urges Professionals to Prevent & Detect Costly Crime

Since launching an identity theft consumer awareness campaign last August, Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom has joined with the National Notary Association ("NNA") to attack the growing problem on another front. Last year, Massachusetts notaries handled more than 140-thousand property transactions with a value in excess of $59 billion. Notaries' verification of personal identity and financial holdings are critical to completing property and many other transactions.

"Whether large or small, personal or commercial, these transactions require the review of assets, credit lines and bank statements. The National Notary Association recognizes that its membership safeguards the public interest and needs the tools to play a key role in monitoring this particular avenue for fraud and identity theft," said Director Lindstrom.

At the NNA's Identity Theft Symposium in Boston on April 1, Lindstrom will discuss joint efforts with the Registry of Motor Vehicles to urge consumers to protect themselves from identity theft by renewing driver's licenses with randomly assigned numbers instead of using social security numbers.

"Last August, only 46% of our drivers had converted their licenses to a randomly assigned number. Since then, close to 250-thousand more drivers have made the switch. We know the social security number is the master key for identity thieves and we're encouraged that more and more of our drivers are closing-down access to it through the most commonly used form of identification," Lindstrom said.

Director Lindstrom noted that inquiries to the Consumer Affairs Hotline regarding identity theft continue to rise substantially as more sophisticated methods for stealing personal data and instances of corporate database hacking are on the rise and generating concern nationally.

"At both the federal and state levels, we need to better safeguard our consumers' privacy and identities from points of purchase on up to database storage and information trading," added Lindstrom.