Issues Facing the 79th Legislature
(Austin) - Because identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee was charged during the interim with the study of identity theft its effects, and the impact of recent legislation addressing the issue (H.B. 2138, S.B. 473, and S.B. 566, 78th Legislature, Regular Session).
Credit card "skimming" is a method by which information encoded in a magnetic strip of a credit card is gathered by an electronic card reader, or skimmer. H.B. 2138 provided that it is an offense (Class B misdemeanor) for a person to use a skimmer or re-encoder to access, read, scan, store, or transfer the information encoded on a payment card's magnetic strip without the consent of the card's authorized user. The legislature may continue to monitor the effectiveness of H.B. 2138, with assistance and feedback from the consumer protection division of the Office of the Attorney General.
A victim of identity theft is often embroiled in a long process of clearing his or her credit history, financial affairs, or even criminal records. S.B. 473 allows a victim of identity theft to place a freeze, for a modest fee, on his or her credit report and provides for the confidentiality of social security numbers.
The legislature may examine the rationale for credit agencies requiring a police report prior to authorizing a credit history security freeze as requested by a consumer. Once the true identity of a person has been determined in an identity theft case, S.B. 566, 78th Legislature, Regular Session, requires local law enforcement authorities to contact the person whose identity has been falsely used. It also requires notification that he or she is entitled to an expunction of a criminal record due to acts associated with the theft of his or her identity and establishes an application process for a person seeking the expunction (the application may be filed through the state attorney general). The arresting agency must also notify the Department of Public Safety. The process of expunction requires verification of the application, including fingerprint records and other identifying information.
The legislature may further consider the procedures for the timely notification and expunction of an innocent identity theft victim's record. Incorporating image verification or facial recognition technology into the Texas driver's license system would allow the state to utilize an existing database of driver's license and identification card images to compare photographs, identify multiple records, and verify the applicant's identity at the time of issuance, thus stopping individuals from acquiring multiple driver's licenses. DPS testified that 11 states are successfully utilizing this technology in their driver's license systems.
The legislature may consider incorporating image verification technology into the Texas driver's license system and its effect on reducing identity theft. The legislature may also consider authorizing additional staff for the DPS driver's license fraud unit to increase the state's ability to pursue allegations of identity theft.
This article is taken from the Senate Research Center publication entitled "Issues Facing the 79th Legislature," and more issues from the report will be highlighted in future Capitol Updates. To view the entire report, please go to www.senate.state.tx.us or call my office to receive a hard copy.
To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0556 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: firstname.lastname@example.org.