Four bills requested by Attorney General Rob McKenna to protect Washington consumers have bipartisan support and will be heard early this week by members of the state House of Representatives.
“We’re asking for laws that would give prosecutors and victims new tools to fight identity theft, prevent homeowners facing foreclosure from falling prey to cons and allow the Attorney General’s Office to continue punishing spyware purveyors,” McKenna said.
“I want to thank legislators for hearing our proposed consumer protection bills early in the session and appreciate the bipartisan support we’ve received from Reps. Patricia Lantz, Kirk Pearson, Jeff Morris and others,” he added.
· Shutting down spyware
HB 2879 would remedy loopholes and weaknesses in Washington’s Computer Spyware Statute, RCW 19.270. The bill is scheduled for public hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in the Committee on Technology, Energy and Communications.
“The Legislature approved our Computer Spyware Statute in 2005 and since that time, the Attorney General’s Office has brought five lawsuits under the act,” McKenna said. “We’re asking legislators to update the bill to adequately address new types of deceptive behaviors and Internet businesses that permit others to send spyware.”
The proposed legislation:
· Removes onerous requirements that hinder ability to prove cases against violators;
· Creates liability for Web hosting services who ignore violators’ use of their products or merchants who pay others to violate the law;
· Adds violations for new forms of spyware; and
· Clarifies the standards for proof of violations and the circumstances under which actions may be brought.
The bill in sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Morris, D-Anacortes, and Reps. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, Hasegawa, Morrell and Kelley.
· Guarding consumers from identity theft
HB 2636 and HB 2638 are intended to help fight the growing problem of identity theft. Both bills are prime-sponsored by Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, and are scheduled to be heard at 1:30 today, Jan. 21, by the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
“Our proposed identity theft bills would assist in the investigation and prosecution of these cases,” McKenna said. “These are recommendations from LEGIT, Washington’s Law Enforcement Group against Identity Theft, which is helping us effect positive change in this area.”
HB 2636 would create a statutory requirement for police to take reports from identity theft victims. Victims would have the option to file a report in their local jurisdiction or with the agency where the crime occurred. The bill would not require officers to investigate every reported crime, but would provide victims with documentation to help clear their name. Police reports are usually required to freeze access to an individual’s credit history, place a long-term fraud alert on a credit report and obtain records of fraudulent accounts from merchants.
Additional sponsors include Al O'Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace; Mark Ericks, D-Bothell; Charles Ross, R-Yakima; Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle; Kevin Van De Wege, D-Hoquiam; Phyllis Kenney, D-Seattle; Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup; Dan Roach, R-Sumner; Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, and Geoff Simpson, D-Covington.
HB 2638 would allow prosecutors to bring separate charges against an accused identity thief for each use of a particular piece of someone’s personal information. This bill reverses policy set in State v. Leyda (2006), where the Washington Supreme Court held that a defendant may only be charged once for use of someone else’s information even when that information is used in multiple locations multiple times.
Additional sponsors include Reps. O’Brien, Ericks, Ross, Van De Wege, Mike Sells, D-Everett; Tom Campbell, R-Roy; Roach and McDonald.
· Protecting Washington residents from mortgage foreclosure scams
HB 2791 would help reduce foreclosure rescue schemes that include an option to allow the original homeowner to buy or lease back the property from a buyer. The House Judiciary Committee will hear the bill at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.
“Even if you lose your home, you may be owed money,” McKenna said. “But some desperate homeowners facing foreclosure have been lured by cons who steal that equity.”
The proposed bill is modeled after 2004 legislation enacted in Minnesota and a similar version subsequently passed in Illinois, California and several other states. The law would:
· Require a written contract with clearly disclosed terms be completed, signed and dated by the homeowner and the purchaser prior to the property’s transfer;
· Provide the foreclosed homeowner with the right to cancel the contract within five business days;
· Require that the purchaser demonstrate that the foreclosed homeowner is able to meet the terms of the contract including making interest and lease payments and is capable of purchasing the property within the allowable period; and
· Require that the homeowner must receive at least 82 percent of the difference between the property’s fair market value and the underlying mortgage in the event of a sale to a third party.
The bill in sponsored by Reps. Patricia Lantz, D-Gig Harbor; Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, and Troy Kelley, D-University Place.
More information on the Attorney General’s proposed legislative package is available online at http://www.atg.wa.gov/2008Legislation.aspx.