FACT Act Frequently Asked Questions
What is the FACT Act?
Answer: The FACT (Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions) Act of 2003 is designed to give consumers added protection against identity theft and consumer fraud. Congress enacted the law and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) administers it.
How does it affect my utility accounts?
Answer: Previously, utilities such as Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities did not fall within the provisions of the federal law, which primarily focused on banks and other financial institutions. In 2008, the FTC implemented new regulations and now municipal utilities must comply with the law's requirements. The FACT Act covers many things but the part that impacts your utility account is the requirement under the "Red Flag Rule" that public utilities create an "Identity Theft Prevention Program." Utilities have been included in this law because the federal government has found someone can open a utility account and, after receiving their first bill, use that bill as a form of accepted identification to conduct fraudulent activities, such as opening bank accounts, obtaining driver's licenses, applying for government benefits, etc.
How is the City of Seattle implementing this new law?
Answer: Starting May 1, 2009, to comply with this new federal law, Seattle will verify the identity of customers opening a new residential utility account as part of its new "Identity Theft Prevention Program." Seattle will accept notarized account applications or landlord affidavits via fax or U.S. mail. Seattle will also verify identity in person at several locations. In addition, the City will provide identity protection training to staff involved with customer accounts.
Who is impacted by this change in rules?
Answer: New residential utility customers who do not have an established account with any of the City's utilities.
How will my identity be verified?
Answer: For in-person verifications, staff will confirm the validity of the identification documents using existing resources and visual inspection. Confirmation of identification will be sent to the utilities, where new account requests will be completed. No personal information will be sent with the notice of identity confirmation. The City accepts government-issued photo identification containing the holder's name, date of birth and photograph. Examples include:
If you are a tenant and cannot provide photo identification, or a notarized application or landlord affidavit, the account can be opened in the property owner's/landlord's name.
What is a property owner/landlord affidavit?Answer: A property owner, agent or landlord can attest to having validated a tenant's identity document(s) as part of the rental application process. The owner or landlord would sign the Landlord section of the Residential Utility Service Application form declaring that the tenant(s)' identity has been verified.
Where do I fax or mail my document?
Answer: Seattle will accept notarized account applications or landlord affidavits via:
Where do I go to have my identify verified in person?
Answer: You can go to any of the following City of Seattle Neighborhood Service Centers:
In addition, City of Seattle staff at the following locations can also verify your identity:
How will the City accommodate new immigrants or individuals with limited English speaking abilities who may not have a government-issued identification?
Answer: City staff have access to interpreters who can help new immigrants and individuals with limited English speaking abilities get their questions answered. We are committed to helping our customers work through these changes to our procedures and helping them understand what type of documentation is required to open a new residential utility account.
I have more questions - who can I ask for help?Answer: Call our Utilities Call Center at 206-684-3000.