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Publish Date: 4/19/2005

New ID theft bill proposed


DENVER ó When University of Colorado freshman Zachary Friesen tried to get a summer job at Radio Shack, he discovered someone had used his Social Security number to buy a houseboat when he was 8 years old.

A year after the discovery, authorities still donít know who stole the information but, even if they did, identity theft doesnít carry a stiff penalty in Colorado.

For the second year in a row, lawmakers have scuttled proposals to make identity theft a felony, saying they donít have enough money to prosecute and imprison the violators. Instead, the Legislature is considering whether to allow people to help protect their credit by putting a freeze on their information.

However, because of objections from Gov. Bill Owens, it would no longer require companies to warn customers that their databases have been hacked, putting them at risk of being victimized.

Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver, said Monday he stripped that portion of the bill to avoid a veto because the governor thought it was a burden on business. The measure (Senate Bill 137) was given final approval by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives.

Colorado is one of two states that havenít made identity theft a felony, something consumer advocates say would help deter criminals from preying on state residents. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Colorado had the fifth highest number of identity theft complaints last year per 100,000 people.

With Congress also considering cracking down on identity theft, Owensí spokesman Dan Hopkins said the governor thought that it would be better to have one set of rules for credit companies to follow instead of different ones in each state they operate in.

Under the Colorado proposal, companies would still have to notify people who have requested credit history freezes if they have given out the information anyway. Those people would be able to sue for up to $10,000 in damages.

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