Measure Would Create Process for Notifying Debt Collectors of Possible Identity Theft
(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Gordon M. Johnson, Timothy J. Eustace, Daniel R. Benson and Paul Moriarty sponsored to protect identity theft victims from debt collection was approved Thursday by the Assembly.
The bill (A-3005) would establish a process for a victim of identity theft to notify a debt collector of their status as a victim of identity theft. It would require the debt collector to cease collection activities until a determination is made by the debt collector as to whether the consumer is in fact responsible for the debt in question.
“Repairing your life and credit after you have been victimized by this crime is a long battle against creditors and collectors to prove your identity,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “While you are putting the pieces together, you should not be held liable for a debt you did not accrue. All collections and charges should cease until the true damage – meaning unauthorized charges – are assessed and proven.”
“There really isn’t a solution to stopping identity theft,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “As consumers, we must safeguard our banking and personal information from predators. As lawmakers, we must strengthen the statute to further protect consumers from some of the consequences associated with identity theft such as debt collection and other enforcement activities.”
“Identify theft is a scourge that no one should have to deal with, but unscrupulous debt collectors can make that stress even worse,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “In cases of identify theft, the innocent victim shouldn’t have to be hounded by debt collectors.”
“This bill is quite simply the right thing to do for people who fall victim to identify theft,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “A victim of identity theft shouldn’t be chased by debt collectors when they didn’t do anything wrong. It’s that simple.”
The bill directs the Attorney General to enforce the provisions of the bill by seeking an injunction and taking further action. A violation of the act may result in a penalty of not less than $500 or more than $1,000 for each violation. The bill also provides that an action to enforce any provision of the act must be filed in the appropriate court within in one year from the date on which the violation occurs.
The bill will now be referred to the Senate.