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Rowe Highlights Maine’s New Identity Theft Law
July 18, 2008
Effective July 18, 2008 Maine residents who are victims of identity theft have the right to file a police report and receive a copy of a written report from their local law enforcement agency. A police report is required by most financial institutions in order for victims of identity theft to clear their name. In the past, many identity theft victims in Maine were unable to obtain a police report because the crime took place outside of the state.
A common scenario where a victim of identity theft could have had trouble obtaining a police report under the previous law would be: A Maine citizen’s social security number is stolen by a thief in Pennsylvania who uses the information to open a credit card account. The thief then uses the credit card to purchase computers from a company in Texas. When the victim discovers the unauthorized credit cards, they would also discover that the crimes were committed in Pennsylvania and Texas, not Maine. In order to file and obtain a copy of a police report, the victim would have to travel to Pennsylvania or Texas.
“This new law is a major step forward for victims of identity theft,” said Attorney General Steve Rowe. “Being able to obtain a police report from local law enforcement will substantially reduce the amount of time and annoyance Maine people experience when trying to clear their good names.”
A police report can be made any time identity theft is discovered regardless of when the actual theft occurred. At its discretion, a police department or sheriff’s office may undertake an investigation or refer it to the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where the suspected crime was committed.
Rowe continued, “According to a 2007 survey, identity theft is the third most common crime in Maine. The same technology that enriches our lives has also created opportunities for criminals. It is important that we continue to adapt to the new challenges posed by this ever evolving threat.”
Under Maine law, a victim of identity theft is anyone whose legal identification has been used to obtain confidential information, property or services. “Legal identification” includes a social security card, social security number, birth certificate, driver's license, government-issued identification card, oral statement of a person’s full name and date of birth or any other means of identifying a person that is generally accepted as accurate and reliable.
“The best way to fight identity theft is to avoid becoming a victim,” Rowe stated. “I encourage everyone to guard your sensitive information by shredding your financial documents, reviewing your credit report, carrying only the credit cards you use regularly and never give out your personal identifying information over the phone, the internet or through the mail unless you know who you are talking to.”
Victims of identity theft are encouraged to call the Attorney General’s Office at 626-8843 for assistance. For more information please visit the Consumer Protection section of the Attorney General’s website at www.maine.gov/ag
NEWS RELEASE July 18, 2008 David Loughran, (207) 626-8577