One of the fastest growing crimes in the United States is identity theft.  During his time in the State Senate, Senator Charles Wyrick said he has had the opportunity promote various pieces of legislation to deter the crime, as well as toughen penalties. 

This past week the Senate Judiciary Committee approved another important measure to help prevent personal information from falling into the hands of would-be criminals.

“The issue of public records that contain personal information is one that requires a careful balance,” said Wyrick. “It is one that often attracts the interest of the press, in particular. Senate Bill 990 deals with the issue of public records that are placed online that currently include information such as a social security number and/or driver license number.”             

Under SB 900, any document that is made available for public inspection through online access will have the social security or driver license numbers blocked before it is placed online.

“Again, the public document itself would still be available for inspection, but by blocking these numbers, there will be a greater level of protection against identity theft,” said Wyrick.

The next stop for this measure is a vote by the full Senate.

“In addition to legislation, consumers can also be pro-active in helping to stop identity theft,” said Wyrick. “For example, it is always a good idea to carefully examine credit card bills for charges not made by the card holder, as well as requesting copies of credit reporters to ensure no one has opened additional accounts using your identity.” 

Wyrick said it is also important to shred any documents containing credit card account numbers, including billing statements. 

In addition, consumers should be careful not to fall victim to "phishing" scams. 

“Your bank and credit card companies already have your account number and social security number,” said Wyrick. “If someone calls or emails you trying to get that information, it is likely a scam artist trying to get the information needed to steal your identity.”

Last year the Federal Trade Commission reported that more than 255,000 consumers became victims of identity theft. 

“It is important for the legislature to do everything in our power to protect law-abiding citizens from this crime,” said Wyrick. “But, just as important for each of us to take precautions against identity theft as well.”