Changes to the way Indiana protects its residents from identity theft are among the many new consumer protection laws that will be enacted by the state on July 1.
These laws pertain to foreclosure consultants, appraisal management firms, and medical records and other documents containing personal information, according to a report in the Kokomo (Indiana) Perspective. They are all designed to help consumers keep information related to their identities private.
One of the new acts allows the state's attorney general's office to obtain and secure all abandoned health records and other documents that carry personal information, and either destroy them or return them to their owners. The Perspective's report also said that those leaving these documents unsecured illegally will be subject to fines, the collection of which will go towards paying the cost of securing and maintaining the records.
Another aspect of this law will allow professional licensing boards to issue cease-and-desist orders that prohibit unlicensed people from practicing trades in which they would have access to personal information related to identity theft. The report said that while the law requires many of these professionals - like doctors and nurses, plumbers, accountants, engineers and funeral directors - to be licensed, those that operate without one are putting consumers' identities at considerable risk.
The Perspective's report also noted that one large contributing cause of the mortgage meltdown was appraisal fraud, which led to lenders approving loans on homes that were grossly overvalued. To prevent this practice, lenders went to appraisal management companies, which were not required to be licensed with the state's Real Estate Appraiser Board. The new law will compel these companies to do so, and also prohibit any individual from owning a stake in one if they do not have a license in good standing. This law will protect prospective homebuyers because these companies will be held to the same standards as independent appraisers.
A recent report in the Northwest Indiana Times said that the above act will also require foreclosure consultancy services to register a surety bond of $25,000 with the state attorney general's office, helping to protect a homeowner from fraud. While the bond itself was required by the old law, companies did not have to provide proof of bonding to the state.