FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2005

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Liz Hitchcock or Ed Mierzwinski (202) 546-9707

Choicepoint Identity Theft Debacle Shows Inadequacy Of Federal Efforts To Regulate Credit Bureaus

Statement of U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director Edmund Mierzwinski

 The Choicepoint identity theft debacle shows once again that federal efforts to regulate credit bureaus and other data dealers are woefully inadequate.  While consumers who seek a copy of their own credit report get the third degree, creditors and identity thieves alike are routinely given the key to the database vaults. PIRG’s first report warning of an identity theft epidemic came out in 1996, yet Congress did nothing substantive on the issue until its modest 2003 amendments. Consumers need greater control over their credit reports and other data held by companies and governments.  Security freeze legislation already enacted by 4 states (CA, LA, TX, and VT) and under consideration in eleven more gives consumers the right to shut down their credit reports so that no new creditors can access them unless the consumer “unfreezes” the report.  We only know about the Choicepoint fiasco because security breach legislation enacted in California requires consumer notification when their data are compromised. Congress should be careful that when it responds to the Choicepoint fiasco it does not preempt the right of the states like California to enact stronger laws to protect consumers. -30-

 U.S. PIRG is the national advocacy office for the state Public Interest Research Groups.  State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy groups.

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