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Local lawmakers push for 'identity passport'

Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron, and Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, aresponsoring billsthat would create an "identity theft passport" to help victims prove their...

ST. PAUL — Two local lawmakers want the state to do more to help victims of identity theft.

Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron, and Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, are sponsoring bills that would create an "identity theft passport" to help victims prove their identity. They discussed their proposal at a Capitol news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

"Minnesota needs to lead in helping these victims. They are drowning in the effects and we need to reach out with a hand and pull them out and this bill is meant to start the process and the discussion," Quam said.

Their push to pass the bill comes as identity fraud continues to climb. Last year, identity fraud hit a record high with 15.4 million victims in the U.S. in 2016, according to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy and Research. Between 2011 and 2016, more than $107 billion in fraud losses were reported. Meanwhile, news about data breaches continue to make headlines. Most recently the Equifax data breach may have compromised the information of an estimated 143 million Americans.

In the U.S., 11 states already have identity theft passports — including Iowa, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Quam came up with the idea for the bill in 2015. Under the proposal, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety commissioner would issue the identity theft passports. To qualify, an individual would have to be a victim of identity theft and have filed a police report. The Byron Republican said details about what the passport would look like still need to be worked out. He said it could be like a driver's license with a special emblem and a bar code that when scanned would generate a picture of the card holder. At this point, he said he does not have an estimate of how much it would cost to set up the theft passport system.

Senjem said he is supporting the bill to help victims of identity theft easily reclaim their status. Last week, the Rochester senator had a brief scare about some of his private financial information. He held up a thick, black wallet and told reporters he lost it last week.

"I could only hope the dog ate it," Senjem said.

He added, "You go through this 10 to 15 minutes of hellacious thoughts — what am I going to do?"

Senjem eventually found his wallet. But he said the momentary loss highlights the panic that victims of identity theft confront.

Quam and Senjem introduced the identity theft bill last year but it failed to get a hearing in the House or Senate. Quam said lawmakers in the past were hesitant to tackle the issue while dealing with other complicated data privacy issues like Real ID and police body cameras. But the Byron lawmaker said he is hopeful that during next year's session, the bill will advance.

Quam added that the recent case of a Byron man accused of stealing a "substantial amount" of mail from residents' mailboxes prompted him to ramp up efforts to pass the bill.

"Enough of sitting back," Quam said. "Let's do something."

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