On Thursday, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed several pieces of legislation designed to safeguard consumers against identity theft. The bills the Governor signed not only place more stringent regulations on businesses, requiring them to quickly notify consumers of possible security breaches, but also increase the penalties against identity thieves and provide victims with the resources necessary to protect themselves from future violation. The cornerstone of the package, House Bill 1633, makes Illinois the second state in the nation to require companies to quickly notify consumers in the state if their personal information is compromised due to a breach in company security.

"These new laws will provide consumers some peace of mind and protection from the fastest growing crime in the country - identity theft," said Gov. Blagojevich. "Last year alone, identity thieves cost consumers $550 million. One of the best ways we can protect consumers is to require companies to notify customers quickly when their records have been compromised. These laws can help individuals take steps to protect their assets and identities before thieves wreak havoc on their credit."

The Governor and Attorney General Lisa Madigan worked closely with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and state legislators to create the Personal Information Protection Act. Sponsored by Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) in the House and Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) in the Senate, the new law requires any entity that collects personal data to notify those consumers affected by a breach in security without delay.

"ID theft is a crime that plagues consumers and their credit records. With all of the recent security breaches, it is critical that consumers are informed when their personal information may be compromised," Attorney General Madigan said. "With the knowledge that sensitive personal information has been breached, consumers can act quickly to stop or minimize damage to their credit history. This legislation gives consumers the power to protect themselves from a crime that can cost a great deal of time, money and peace of mind."

HB 1633 came in response to an October 2004 incident in which Georgia-based ChoicePoint, sold the personal information of more than 145,000 people, including 5,000 Illinoisans, to identity thieves who pretended to be legitimate businesses. Even though officials at ChoicePoint were aware of the breach, consumers weren't notified of the situation until months later, when officials, prompted by an existing California law requiring the disclosure of any security breach which puts Californians' personal information at risk, revealed the information. Other massive security breaches have earned attention recently: roughly 1.5 million DSW Shoe Warehouse customers' financial information were compromised in April; tapes containing information about 3.9 million CitiFinancial customers were reported missing earlier this month; and just last week Motorola disclosed that computers were stolen that containing the social security numbers of potentially thousands of employees.

"Over 9 million people had their information stolen or misplaced this year. The Breach Notification Act will force companies to take more responsibility in protecting our personal information," Illinois PIRG consumer advocate John Gaudette said.

"It can take years for a person to undo the damage caused by identity theft," said Rep. Fritchey. "This new law will help ensure that consumers get the information they need to prevent them from becoming victims in the first place."

"The actions of identity thieves against consumers is deplorable, and that is why the state legislature had to take matters into its own hands -- to protect the hard working people of Illinois from being taken advantage of. I applaud Gov. Blagojevich for taking this critical step to further protect our citizens," said Sen. Silverstein.

House Bill 1633 becomes effective January 1, 2006.

Gov. Blagojevich will also sign House Bill 1058 when it reaches his desk. Sponsored by Rep. Marlow Colvin (D-Chicago) and Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), HB 1058 allows people who have been victims of identity theft to place a security freeze on their