OLYMPIA – New laws requested by Attorney General Rob McKenna dealing with mortgage foreclosure schemes, identity theft, spyware and third-party marketing of cell phone numbers will go into effect on Thursday.
“These new laws address critical threats to consumers from the purveyors of modern frauds—from mortgage rescue schemes to identity theft and online spying” McKenna said. “Also beginning this week, consumers’ cell phone numbers will be protected from solicitors, since they can no longer be published without express consent. I want to thank legislators from both parties who helped pass these crucial protections.”
The following laws go into effect on Thursday, June 12:
Prohibiting third-party marketing of cell phone numbers
House Bill 2479 requires any person in the business of compiling, marketing or selling phone numbers for commercial purposes to obtain a consumer’s express opt-in consent before publishing his or her wireless phone number in a directory. A violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000. The Attorney General may bring actions to enforce compliance and may notify first-time violators with a letter of warning.
Mortgage Foreclosure Legislation
House Bill 2791 adds protections for homeowners from losing their homes in “mortgage rescue” scams by:
Requiring a written contract with clearly disclosed terms be completed, signed and dated by the homeowner and the purchaser prior to the property’s transfer;
Providing the foreclosed homeowner the right to cancel the contract within five business days;
Requiring 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;
Requiring 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.
A violation of the law is a per se violation of the Consumer Protection Act, making the outcome of litigation against foreclosure rescue schemes substantially certain and resulting in broad deterrence.
Identity Theft Legislation
Senate Bill 5878 creates a statutory requirement for police to take reports from victims of the identity theft.
Victims have the option to file a report in their local jurisdiction or with the agency where the crime occurred.
Allows 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.
House Bill 2637 allows records provided by out-of-state businesses to be authenticated by affidavit, rather than in person, in criminal cases. When properly served with a request for records, the recipient must provide the records within 20 business days and verify the authenticity by providing a signed affidavit, declaration or certification. This allows for the more effective prosecution of identity thieves.
Shutting Down Spyware
House Bill 2879 remedies loopholes and weaknesses in the state’s Computer Spyware Statute by:
Removing onerous requirements that hinder the ability to prove cases against violators;
Creates liability for web hosting services who ignore violators’ use of their products;
Adds violations for new forms of spyware; and
Clarifies the standards for proof of violations and the circumstances under which actions may be brought.
Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725