5 On Your Side

New N.C. Law Offers More Protection From Identity Theft

Posted November 30, 2005 1:36 a.m. EST

— Starting Dec. 1, North Carolina residents will have more protection from identity theft as a result of a new law designed to cut down on the fast-growing crime.

Under the new law, consumers can freeze their credit report by sending a certified letter and a $10 fee to each of the three major credit bureaus.

In addition to allowing consumers the option to freeze their credit report, the law will also minimize the use of Social Security numbers as identification numbers

The law also ensures that businesses destroy or shred records containing personal identifying information so that identity thieves cannot retrieve information from discarded files that may have been carelessly thrown away.

If a security breach may have compromised personal information, businesses must notify their customers under the new law.

State and local government agencies are also prohibited from unnecessarily collecting people's Social Security numbers, or from disclosing them to the general public if it is necessary to collect them.

Identity theft occurs when a consumer's personal information is stolen and used to commit financial fraud. Approximately 300,000 residents in the state have their identity stolen each year, and identity theft costs businesses $50 billion annually.