Members of Utah Information Technology Commission like the idea of making it a third-degree felony to steal someone's identity and then use it to raid someone's bank account or use it the information to apply for a credit card.
The Commission, meeting Thursday afternoon, said they supported the concept of draft legislation proposed by Rep. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, that would penalize anyone who steals someone's identity and then uses such information to gain access to someone's "financial resources." Along with a 0-5 year prison term, the bill would also include provisions for restitution."I think it is ripping people off. It's a privacy issue. Right next to my personal identity of who I am is my credit. You take my credit away and I am in a deep dark hole," Davis said, noting he became concerned about the issue after watching a network television news program.
The bill comes in the wake of a break-in at University of Utah, where the Social Security numbers of 23,000 people were stolen. Three people reported that someone attempted to use their identities to apply for credit cards.
Utahn Diana Christiansen testified in April in hearings held in Washington, D.C., by Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, that someone obtained her Social Security number and used it to make a fake driver's license. Soon bill collectors began hounding Christensen for purchases she never made and payments on accounts she never opened. Someone ran up $27,118 in charges in some eight accounts.
The congressional hearings also showed that current laws make it difficult for law enforcement to catch identity thieves.
Davis' bill borrows language from a new Georgia law that would make it illegal to steal someone's identity based on information including Social Security number, driver's license numbers, checking account numbers, credit card numbers and debit card numbers.
The bill would give the Utah Consumer Protection Division Authority to investigate complaints about identity theft and give authority to the attorney general or district attorney in the county where the crime was committed to prosecute.
Along with Georgia, only Arizona currently has an identity theft law, Davis said.
Commission members also suggested that the Legislature examine possible civil recourse for people who have had their reputation hurt through identity theft. Davis said he is interested in running a companion bill that would address identity theft in other areas including misrepresentation of academic credentials.