News Release

New Jersey Department of
Banking and Insurance
Commissioner Holly C. Bakke

For Immediate Release: December 9, 2004

For Further Information:: Mary Cozzolino - (609) 292-5064

Banking and Insurance Commissioner Offers Holiday Shoppers Tips on Identity Theft

HAMILTON -– With the holiday shopping season underway, Banking and Insurance Commissioner Holly C. Bakke is urging consumers to protect themselves from added stress by learning about identity theft. Commissioner Bakke today spoke directly with shoppers, sharing important tips on how consumers can protect themselves from identity theft, what actions to take if victimized and their rights as outlined in the Consumer Credit Bill of Rights.

Identity theft is the fraudulent use of a person’s name and identifying data and occurs when that personal information is stolen and used for someone else's financial gain. According to the Federal Trade Commissioner (FTC) New Jersey ranks among the top 20 states with regard to reported incidents of identity theft. Identity thieves may use another person’s identity to open bank accounts, obtain credit, merchandise or services.

“During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, consumers often become susceptible to theft, misuse or solicitation of their personal and credit information,” Commissioner Bakke said. “Consumers need to be attentive, especially this time of year, with store receipts, bank statements and any personal information kept in wallets or purses. Identity thieves will use this information, leaving their victims with ruined credit and financial problems.”

Earlier this year, the Department unveiled the Consumer Credit Bill of Rights. This bill provides for additional consumer rights to complement existing rights contained in New Jersey's Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). New Jersey is the first state to issue this type of additional protection that empowers consumers in regards to their credit history.

The federal government reports that identity theft is now the fastest-growing financial crime. Nearly ten million Americans were victimized last year, resulting in $5 billion in individual losses and $45 billion in corporate and banking losses.

Consumers may use the following tips to protect themselves from identity theft during the holidays:

If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft:

For more tips, precautions and general information on identity theft, visit the Department’s web site.