Modern-day criminals don't have to hold a gun to your back while they clean out your wallet. All they have to do is steal your identity.
While consumers can take a number of sensible steps to prevent identity thieves from stealing their sensitive personal financial information, the state Legislature is close to passing a bill that would provide some help. The measure would allow South Carolina residents to put a free block on their credit reports.
Residents would be able to block any new loan or credit card from being approved. The bill also restricts the use of Social Security numbers and requires companies and state agencies to notify customers when there has been a security breach that exposes their personal information.
Rep. Kris Crawford, R-Florence, also is pushing for a provision that would require consumer reporting agencies to remove incorrect information from credit reports within 30 days or face penalties. That, we think, would be a worthwhile addition to the bill.
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Residents could temporarily unfreeze their credit information if they want to open new accounts. But this measure would help prevent identity thieves from creating bogus credit card accounts or withdrawing money from victims' bank accounts.
South Carolina is one of only 11 states nationwide without an identity theft protection law. But this bill, as written, would put the state in the forefront in allowing the credit blocking service to be free.
Indiana now is the only other state that requires the service to be free. In most states, fees range from $3 to $10 each time credit is frozen or temporarily freed.
It is encouraging that state lawmakers are addressing this need. In 2005, more than 2,400 South Carolinians reported their identity was stolen, according to AARP South Carolina.
Freezing credit information won't stop identity theft dead in its tracks, but it will give consumers one more weapon with which to fight it.