Sorrell opposes new credit report freeze legislation

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(Host) Attorney General Bill Sorrell is strongly opposing legislation in Congress that would significantly weaken Vermont’s new consumer protection law dealing with identity theft.

Sorrell says the proposed bill is part of an effort by the Bush Administration to reduce the power of individual states to implement standards that are tougher than those adopted by the federal government.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) With the strong support of the Attorney General’s office, the Legislature this winter gave its approval to a bill that allows consumers to put a freeze on their credit report if they suspect they might victims of identity theft.

By placing a freeze on their credit report, a consumer makes it very difficult for anyone else to illegally open up a new credit card account in the consumer’s name.

Criminals, who steal a person’s identity, usually by obtaining their social security number, often open up new accounts and make illegal purchases on the new card.

The bill being considered in Congress this week allows consumers to request a freezing of their credit report only if they’ve become an actual victim of identity theft.

Attorney General William Sorrell says the bill makes no sense at all:

(Sorrell) “The Vermont Legislature this session passed a law that said, like California’s, that you don’t have to already been a victim of identity theft to put a freeze on your credit history this bill that the House is considering in D.C. this week would say no you have to be a victim the horse is already out of the barn by the time you can protect yourself.”

(Kinzel) Sorrell says one of the most troubling aspects of the proposed federal law is that the legislation would also preempt any state laws dealing with this issue.

(Sorrel) “It’s a really bad example of the federal government stepping in a setting a standard and not allowing states to be more protective of consumers then the federal standard it’s fine to have federal law that’s a floor but when a federal law is both a floor and a ceiling I think it’s bad for consumers.”

(Kinzel) Sorrell says the need for the new Vermont law has become apparent in the past few months.

There were several instances where laptop computers, containing social security numbers, were stolen when employees took the computers out of their office.

The first case involved thousands of people in the Vermont State College system – the second case involves millions of veterans across the country.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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