ChoicePoint to let consumers view personal information

Identity-theft scheme affected thousands

April 01, 2005|By COX NEWS SERVICE

ATLANTA - An executive for troubled ChoicePoint says consumers will be able to review personal information compiled about them and then sold to employers, insurance companies and other businesses.

Don McGuffey, the company's vice president for data acquisition, made the comment in testimony before a committee of the California state Senate on Wednesday.

Currently, by paying the company, people can see reports that contain information about them. McGuffey said the new system would provide "a single point of access" to review a variety of reports with that information. Critics have said such reports sometimes include errors.

Yesterday, ChoicePoint officials couldn't say when public access to the records might be allowed or whether there would be a charge to see them.

About 145,000 such consumer records were obtained by an identity thief or thieves who created fake businesses to establish accounts at the Georgia company. The scheme, based in Los Angeles, affected about 35,000 Californians.

The fallout from that incident, which became public in February, includes lawsuits, government hearings and an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. The Securities and Exchange Commission also has begun an informal investigation into stock trading by Derek Smith, ChoicePoint's chief executive, and Doug Curling, its president.

McGuffey's testimony offered no details of the plan. ChoicePoint spokeswoman Kristen McCaughan would not say when access might be allowed or how the plan would work.

She said in a statement: "Everyone should have a right of access to information about them, irrespective of the type, source or use of the information. In other words, expand the principles of the Fair Credit Reporting Act to all types of information: right to access, right to question the accuracy and prompt a review, and right to comment if a negative record is found to be accurate."

At the committee hearing in California, McGuffey said a previously announced effort to check the credentials of about 17,000 ChoicePoint customers to make sure they are legitimate users will be more difficult than the company first planned in the wake of the security breach.

The statement said many customers - including private investigators - will no longer have full access to Social Security and driver's license data.

Full access to the data will be confined to government, law enforcement, financial institutions that are members of the FDIC, and federal- or state-chartered insurance companies, ChoicePoint said.

The Associated Press reported that the ChoicePoint measures seemed to at least partly satisfy the demands of California state Sen. Jackie Speier, who has introduced legislation to limit the industry.

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