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Identity theft forms committee

By Katelyn Gendron-List, Staff Writer

WESTFIELD State Representative Don Humason (R-Westfield) is ready and determined to get to work on the new Identity Theft Bill, as he has been named to his first Conference Committee.

The Identity Theft Bill Conference Committee, is a six member committee made up of four Democrats and two Republicans aimed at merging Senate Bill 2236 and House Bill 4018 into one Act Relative to the Protection of Personal Information or Identity Theft Bill, according to Humason.

"Over the past couple of years the Legislature has had several bills involving different aspects of identity theft that have been debated heavily in committees," Humason said. "These bills basically say the same thing just a little differently and it is our job to hammer out those differences."

With the recent accelerations in technology over the past few decades, consumers are becoming more vulnerable to identity theft. According to Humason, the bills each require more protection for consumers and their credit lines.

"Currently there is no law that requires retailers or credit agencies to notify the consumer when their information has been stolen, or when there is a breach in their security," Humason said.

One such incident of security breach, according to Humason, was when the retailer TJ Maxx experienced a breech in their security. They claimed to have a pending investigation which is why they never let the consumers know that their information had been compromised.

Not only is there a requirement within the bills that the consumer be contacted during a security breech but the new bills also allow the consumer to put a "freeze" on their credit, Humason added. This way anyone who may have stolen the consumers information cannot open new credit cards or use them in order to damage the credit line.

"This gives the consumer time to not only cancel their credit cards but also to give them control over who is tapping into their credit," Humason said.

Another example given by Humason, was when a branch office of the Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles threw citizens documents into their dumpster without shredding them. The information was then taken by what Humason referred to as a "dumpster-diver."

"There are very smart criminals out there that find ways to gain access to your credit information," Humason said. "I caution every consumer to try and use more cash and less credit as I do. Just because I protect my credit does not mean that the vendor will protect my credit."

According to Michael Rodrigues, State Representative (D-Bristol) and chairman of the Committee on Consumer Protection, the purpose of this committee is not to reinvent the wheel but to catch up to identity theft legislation that has already been passed in 30 other states.

"I want consumers to feel secure so that when they buy a product and give their credit card number to that retailer they feel safe," Rodrigues said. "We're excited to get this done as quickly as possible and get it to the governor for a signature."

Currently the Committee has not yet met but according to Humason, the deadline to bring the Conference Committee Report to both branches of the legislature is not until the end of the session..