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Record penalty: A wake-up call for tougher ID theft protections?

Data broker ChoicePoint zapped with largest civil penalty in Federal Trade Commission history

January 26, 2006

ChoicePoint Multi-Million Dollar Penalty Illustrates Need for Congress to Enact Strong ID-Theft Protections, Regulate Data Brokers

(Washington, D.C) – Consumers Union praised the Federal Trade Commission’s multi-million dollar settlement against data broker ChoicePoint, the largest civil penalty in FTC history. However, comprehensive Congressional action is still needed to protect consumers’ personal information from identity thieves.

“This settlement serves as a wake-up call for Congress to ensure that all businesses that buy and sell our most personal information are held accountable, and that they protect vulnerable consumers from having their sensitive information stolen,” said Susanna Montezemolo, Policy Analyst for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

“Congress also needs to give consumers the tools they need to protect their own sensitive information,” she said. “In the last year alone, nearly 60 million Americans have been put at risk for identity theft through no fault of their own because of the stream of data breaches by data brokers, credit card companies, and other businesses,” she added.

“Companies like ChoicePoint collect and sell our fingerprints, driving records, employment histories, financial history and insurance records, yet are unregulated by the government,” Montezemolo said. “Americans can take every sensible precaution to protect themselves and still become identity theft victims because of the lax security by these companies.”

Consumers Union again called on Congress to regulate data brokers and provide real tools for consumers to protect themselves from identity theft. Consumers should at a minimum be allowed to review and correct the information that is compiled on them, be given notification on every security breach, and be given the right to freeze access to their personal information.

For more information on what Congress should do, please visit www.FinancialPrivacyNow.org.

Susanna Montezemolo 202-462-6262