President Bush Signs Measure Today Providing ID Theft, Credit Report Protections; Yet Fails on Financial Privacy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 4, 2003

Contact:
Susan Herold, (202) 462-6262
Michael McCauley, (415) 431-6791

PRESIDENT BUSH SIGNS MEASURE TODAY PROVIDING
ID THEFT, CREDIT REPORT PROTECTIONS; YET FAILS ON
FINANCIAL PRIVACY

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – President George Bush today is expected to sign a revised version of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that offers consumers new protections to ensure credit report accuracy and safeguards against identity theft, but fails to give consumers meaningful tools to protect their financial privacy.
Rob Schneider, director of Consumers Union’s FinancialPrivacyNow.org project, issued the following statement on the FCRA bill, noting its added identity theft protections, but its failure to protect consumers from the sharing of their sensitive financial information:
“This measure puts in place important new protections against identity theft like giving consumers the right to block information about fraudulent transactions on their credit reports and the ability to receive one free credit report each year. And the legislation allows states to enhance identity theft protections as new problems arise, as long as they are not inconsistent with federal law. In this area, Congress sided with consumers recognizing that the ever-evolving problem of identity theft deserves the kind of quick remedy best enacted in state legislatures.”
“While consumers will have a limited right under this legislation to stop unwanted marketing by the affiliates of the financial institutions they do business with, they will not have the choice to stop the sharing of their private financial information by these companies. As a result, financial institutions will continue to be able to share such sensitive information as their customers’ Social Security numbers, account balances, and spending habits with the hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of companies they count as affiliates.”
“Without tougher financial privacy laws, consumers will remain vulnerable to identity theft, aggressive marketing and fraud. Consumers deserve a say over how this intimate information is collated and combined, shared and sold, and we believe Congress must revisit this issue.”
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Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers.