For Immediate Release - July 15, 2004

Consumer Affairs Director Lindstrom Applauds Federal Identity Theft Law

Consumer Affairs Director Lindstrom Applauds Federal Identity Theft Law

Pointing to the ever-increasing cases of identity theft in the Commonwealth, state Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom applauded today's enactment of strong, mandatory federal sentencing for those convicted of crimes relating to identity theft. Among the provisions of the new law signed by President George W. Bush is a mandatory two-year prison term for those convicted of assuming and using another person's identity to commit non-terrorism related crimes.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft complaints rose 28% in Massachusetts in one year. "That number is consistent with the steady increase in inquiries our office has fielded in recent years. The good news is the issue is getting into the public's consciousness and this federal law provides the muscle needed to deter it," said Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom.

Director Lindstrom added that consumers should take the following simple steps to safeguard their identities and financial information:
 

  • Choose a scrambled number instead of your social security number when you renew or are issued a driver's license,
  • Closely scrutinize credit and bank statements monthly to ensure that your accounts have not been accessed without your knowledge,
  • Order free copies of your credit reports annually to verify that your credit is in good standing,
  • Shred bank and credit statements when you are done reconciling your accounts,
  • Carry on your person only the credit and bank cards you intend to use at the time,
  • Store your credit cards and financial information in a safe and secure location in your home.

According to a report issued this January by the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"), Massachusetts ranked 21 st in the nation in 2003 for identity theft complaints with the metropolitan Boston area checking in at 25 th nationwide for identity theft complaints with 2,114. The FTC report is available at www.consumer.gov/topics/identity-theft.