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Attorney General Sorrell Reaches Agreement With Choicepoint

CONTACT: Julie Brill, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3658

Attorney General William H. Sorrell, along with the attorneys general of 43 other states, announced a settlement with ChoicePoint to resolve allegations that the company failed to adequately maintain the privacy and security of consumers’ personally identifiable information that was in its control.

ChoicePoint is a provider of identification and credential verification services to businesses, government and non-profit organizations. ChoicePoint, among other things, collects, maintains, and distributes consumers’ personally identifiable information. In February 2005, ChoicePoint announced that criminals posing as legitimate businesses gained access to consumers’ personally identifiable information. In the wake of these crimes, ChoicePoint, mailed more than 145,000 notices to consumers across the country whose information may have been viewed or acquired by the criminals.

As part of this settlement, ChoicePoint will make significant, ongoing changes in the way that the company credentials new customers who have access to personally identifiable information. For the first time, a data broker has agreed to safeguard publicly available information using the same credentialing methods as it uses to safeguard financial information that is protected by law. Certain sensitive publicly available information, including Social Security numbers, will now receive greater protection.

“With this settlement, ChoicePoint has taken the steps necessary to protect our sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers,” Attorney General Sorrell said. “These stringent requirements will help to prevent unauthorized access to consumers’ personal information, and help reduce the incidence of identity theft.”

Also as part of this settlement, ChoicePoint will pay $500,000 to the states.

In January 2006, ChoicePoint settled its case with the Federal Trade Commission and paid $5 million into a pool to be used for consumer redress. The FTC settlement requires ChoicePoint to improve its process for accepting clients that obtain information from credit reports. The settlement entered into today by the states goes beyond the FTC settlement and requires ChoicePoint to improve its credentialing process for clients that obtain Social Security numbers and other forms of personally sensitive information.

Consumers who suffered out of pocket expenses relating to identity theft that resulted from the ChoicePoint breach may obtain redress under the FTC Order. The deadline to submit a redress claim form to the FTC is June 22, 2007. If consumers meet the eligibility requirements for redress, they can complete the redress form and submit that for consideration. More information is available at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/cases/choicepoint/index.shtm.

Examples of expenses for which consumers may be reimbursed:

  • Unauthorized charges on existing accounts NOT covered by bank or credit card company
  • Money paid on new accounts opened in consumer’s name
  • Money paid to a debt collector on new accounts opened in consumer’s name
  • Cost of ordering new checks
  • Cost to file or receive copy of police report
  • Notary fees
  • Costs associated with correcting unauthorized charges and/or disputing incorrect information – telephone calls; mail, fax, photocopy charges; hourly fees for internet access; travel expenses.

Joining Vermont in today’s settlement are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.