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NEWS RELEASE
Nov 21, 2003


CONTACT: Jerry Flanagan - (415) 497-1710

"Privacy" Bill to Gut State Identity Theft Laws, in Addition To Pre-empting State Privacy Laws

Consumers will lose again if Bush and Congress override states' right to act aggressively to crack down on identity theft.
WASHINGTON D.C. -- A far-reaching bill to reauthorize the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) will override state financial privacy laws and gut state identity theft protections, according to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).

Two versions of the bill, S. 1753 and H.R. 2622, have already cleared the U.S Senate and the House of Representative. A final conference committee agreement announced this morning includes a broad pre-emption of state identity theft protections. A final vote on the bill in the House and Senate is expected later today. The Bush Administration has supported the proposal.

"The U.S. House, Senate and President Bush have bowed to the powerful banking lobby by trading state consumer protections for federal loopholes," said Jerry Flanagan, a consumer advocate for The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). "Consumers will lose again if President Bush and Congress override a state's right to act aggressively to crack down on identity theft."

State identity theft protections to be pre-empted include:

** A Texas law allowing identity theft victims to "freeze'' access to their credit reports.
** A California law that requires a credit card issuer to verify an address if either an application for credit shows a different address than the address on the pre-approved offer, or if a request for an additional credit card is made within 10 days of a request for a change of address.
** State laws providing victims faster and easier ways to clean up their reports by allowing them to send police reports to credit bureaus.

The bill also contains provisions to override a new California law allowing consumers to say "no" when banks trade personal financial information with thousands of corporate affiliates.

"First the banks took our privacy, now they are taking our right to protect ourselves when we are victimized by identity thieves," said Flanagan.

To demonstrate how everyone's privacy is at risk without stronger laws, FTCR hired a professional skywriter to disclose the first five digits of Citigroup CEO Charles Princes' Social Security number over New York City. A photomontage of the first five digits of Prince's Social Security number is available for downloading at www.consumerwatchdog.org

The reckless exchange of Social Security numbers and other private information among America's corporations has dramatically increased Americans' risk of identity theft. Identity theft led all complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in 2000, 2001, and 2002 and doubled in 2002. Recently the FTC announced almost 10 million Americans are victimized by identity theft each year.

FTCR is a non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy organization based in California. For more information visit us on the web at www.consumerwatchdog.org

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