States pass laws to protect identity

Monday, 14 July 2003, 9:23 AM EST

State lawmakers, alarmed by high-profile identity-theft scams, are adopting measures that could become models for a federal law protecting victims from the nation's fastest-growing crime.

As many as 700,000 Americans are targeted by identity thieves every year, the Justice Department says. Advocates say the state laws address gaps in federal consumer-protection statutes. Several initiatives became effective July 1. What they do:

Strengthen fraud alerts. A new Texas law requires lenders and creditors to take extra steps to verify a customer's identification when a fraud alert is placed on the individual's credit report.

Fraud alerts are designed to prevent criminals from opening bogus accounts in a victim's name, but lenders often ignore them, says Luke Metzger of the Texas Public Interest Research Group.

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