Attorney General Jack Conway and Representative Robin Webb of Grayson filed legislation Friday that will help protect the identities of Kentuckians and update laws to keep pace with changes in technology. The bill is cosponsored by Rep. Jim Glenn of Owensboro and Rep. John Vincent of Ashland.
"This bill is a lifeline for consumers across our Commonwealth who've lived the nightmare of having their identities stolen," Conway said. "The legislation that Rep. Webb and I crafted protects consumers and provides avenues for them to help repair their good name."
"Identity theft is becoming the fastest-growing financial crime in America and Kentucky," said Webb. "This bill will protect victims of identity theft through better notification procedures, stronger legal options and better oversight from businesses."
The law will require businesses to notify residents if their personal information, such as a bank account number or Social Security number, has been compromised by improper disposal of paper records or an online security breach. Businesses must take reasonable steps to protect and properly dispose of personal information. If information is compromised, businesses could be civilly liable for losses incurred by consumers.
House Bill 553 will also require businesses to keep Social Security numbers hidden in mailings, remove as identification numbers on benefit cards and require security measures for Web sites where consumers enter their Social Security numbers.
The legislation will criminalize the practice of "phishing," where e-mails or Web sites mimicking legitimate businesses are created to scam consumers. The law will allow victims, the Attorney General, Internet-service providers and owners of Web sites or trademarks to sue the perpetrator for injunctive relief or damages.
In addition, the law will improve the efficiency of the legal process for individuals who are victims of identity theft. House Bill 553 will expedite the process for residents to obtain a Circuit Court order that they could use to dispute fraudulent charges. The law will require all local law-enforcement agencies to process identity-theft complaints and provide copies to victims. Identity-theft education will also be incorporated into basic training for all police officers. The law expands the scope of identity-theft violations to which victims may seek civil relief against criminals who've perpetrated these crimes.
And the bill will strengthen Kentucky's existing Harassing Communications statute by clarifying that the law also applies when a perpetrator uses another person's identity when sending an offending communication.
House Bill 553 will be assigned to a committee for review and a vote.