credit report, preventing the release of the report to any party without their consent. This legislation also acts to prevent a thief from opening additional credit card accounts with the person's information, and from changing crucial information in the credit report such as a person's name, date of birth, Social Security number, or address, without the consumer being notified in writing by the credit reporting agency within 30 days of the change.

"When something like this happens -- whether someone steals your wallet, breaks into your home, or fraudulently obtains your information for their personal use -- you feel violated. This legislation attempts to restore power to the consumer, so that they can regain financial solvency," said Rep. Colvin.

"This legislation further protects consumers from becoming victims of identity theft. As a consumer myself, I understand how critical this legislation is to preventing unauthorized persons from obtaining the personal information of unsuspecting consumers," said Sen. Hunter.

The Governor also signed a number of other consumer protection bills into law:

Senate Bill 1799, sponsored by Sen. Peter J. Roskam (R-Wheaton) and Rep. Sidney H. Mathias (R- Arlington Heights), requires the Department of Revenue to notify a taxpayer directly if they suspect another person has used their Social Security number to register a business or pay taxes and fees. The bill becomes effective immediately.

The Department of Revenue continues to be an integral part of the Governor's identity theft initiative. Recently, the agency adopted a number of new measures to protect citizens' personal information, including changing the configuration of its mailings to better conceal Social Security numbers. Data security is a top concern as new e-filing applications are developed, and the department uses the latest encryption and security technology to maintain strict confidentiality standards for taxpayer financial information.

Senate Bill 123, sponsored by Sen. Todd Sieben (R-Geneseo) and Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville), requires the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to phase in new Conservation ID (CID) numbers to replace Social Security numbers on hunting and fishing licenses as applicants renew. This change will be a part of DNR's new automated licensing system as it is phased in over the next year. The law requires DNR to keep a record of the Social Security number on file, although that number will not appear on the license. This bill becomes effective January 1, 2006.

House Bill 2696, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Munson (R-Elgin) and Sen. Pamela J. Althoff (R-Crystal Lake), prohibits businesses from denying a person credit or utility services, or from increasing a person's credit limits based solely on their status as an identity theft victim. The law is effective immediately.

House Bill 2697, sponsored by Rep. Sandra M. Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn) and Sen. Carole Pankau (R-Bloomingdale), makes unauthorized copying and transmitting of any financial transaction devices including credit and debit cards, or other devices used to make a payment, get cash, or make a deposit, a Class A misdemeanor. This law is effective immediately.

House Bill 2699, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Munson (R-Elgin) and Sen. Edward D. Maloney (D-Chicago), increases the penalties by one felony class for identity theft and aggravated identity theft crimes. This legislation also increases the penalties against those persons who steal the identities of more than three victims. This law is effective immediately.

Identity theft has become the fastest growing crime in the country. According to the Federal Trade Commission, last year alone identity theft and consumer fraud cost Americans nearly $550 million, a $12 million increase from 2003. On average, victims will spend an average of 600 hours and $1500 repairing their credit.

IL PIRG recently identified several ways consumers can protect their personal information, and therefore, better protect themselves against identity theft:

  • Obtain a free credit report and look for and report any inconsistent