Legislation sponsored by Senator Robert Singer protecting consumers who fall victim to identity theft from debt collection was passed by the full Senate.
Senator Robert Singer’s legislation protects consumers who fall victim to identity theft from debt collection. (©iStock)
“Victims of identity theft can be buried in thousands of dollars of debt from fraudulent purchases before they even realize they have been victimized,” said Singer (R-Monmouth, Ocean). “This legislation makes sure victims of identity theft have a means to restore their lives and avoid the financial ruin of wrongly being tied to debt caused by fraud and no fault of their own.”
Singer’s bill, S1344, establishes a process for a victim of identity theft to notify a debt collector of their status as a victim of fraud and requires the collector to cease collection until a determination is made based on information provided by the consumer as to whether the individual is in fact responsible for the debt. Under the bill, consumers have 45 days after initial communication with a debt collector about a debt being collected to provide written notice to the collector that they were the victim of identity theft.
The bill provides that debt collectors must notify the consumer in writing as to the findings of whether the consumer is still responsible for the debt or if the debt was determined to have been caused by fraud. The collector can only then begin collecting on the debt if the consumer is determined to have been responsible for the debt.
According to a 2013 report by the Federal Trade Commission, reports of identity theft quadrupled nationwide from 2001 to 2012. In New Jersey in 2012, over 8,400 people reported being the victim of identity theft.
Singer noted that the report found in 2012 that those age 60 and over reported the largest percentage of fraud cases of any age bracket.
“Cybercrimes and attacks that lead to identity theft continue to affect more and more people, especially seniors,” Singer said. “As a representative of one of the state’s largest senior populations, I’m going to continue to push for protections to make certain seniors who have worked hard for their money aren’t taken advantage of through fraud or other crimes.”