New Law Helps Identity Theft Victims Fight Back

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When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, a new state law will go into affect that will help victims of identity theft fight back in New Hampshire -the Granite State.

Just four days into 2007 House bill 227 was introduced to the Legislative Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, and six months later Governor John Lynch signed HB227 into law.

The bill puts a civil statute on the books, allowing victims of identity theft to seek monetary relief from the criminal offender.

"It will give people a course of action, in that they can recoup from someone who has benefited from their information," said Lauren Noether of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.

Noether explained the new state law will allow victims of identity theft to receive some financial recompense for a crime that can prove to be quite costly and harmful to any victim. It will also help to deter this sort of crime from being committed in the first place.

Before the new statute, there was no method for victims to recover their financial losses from the perpetrator of such a crime.

HB227, or RSA 359 as it will become as of Jan. 1, changes that: It states, "in addition to any other remedies provided by law, a victim may bring an action in his or her county of residence or any county which any part of the act took place, regardless of whether the person who committed the violation was ever actually present in that county, against the person who violated this chapter."

This new statute also allows victims to recoup either $5,000 per incident of identity theft or three times the actual damages. The remedy that is allowed to be sought depends on whichever is greater.

There is also a provision to allow for the reimbursement of attorneys fees and court costs.

"People ought to have some way to get something back to do whatever repairs are necessary to their credit and good name," said state Rep. Beth Arsenault, D-Laconia.

According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, the lead federal law enforcement agency fighting this form of crime, identity theft is America's fastest growing crime.

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