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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

North Carolina passes law to help consumers avoid identity theft

In response to nearly 1.7 million North Carolinans having their identities put at risk by 329 reported data breaches since 2005, the North Carolina legislature passed a law that allows consumers to "freeze" their credit report.  This helps protect consumers from identity theft because, while frozen, an identity thief should not be able to use their credit report to open a new account.  When the consumer wants to apply for credit, he or she must only contact the credit bureaus to have the freeze lifted for the time period needed to make the credit application.

The biggest downside to freezing one's credit report is that you can't go out and instantly get credit, like some consumers like to do to obtain, for instance, immediate discounts (i.e. apply for a credit card and you get 10% off your purchase).  In my opinion, this small sacrifice is miniscule if it protects your identity.

The North Carolina law also requires paid credit monitoring services to advise consumers on how to get their credit reports for free from http://www.annualcreditreport.com/.  I hope the North Carolina law also allows for private enforcement of this provision (with statutory damages), or it won't be worth the paper its written on.

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