Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. announced recently that the New York State ID Theft Law is now in effect, protecting the rights of consumers across the state and helping to prevent identity theft from taking place. Last year, identity theft was the top consumer complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission, with over 7,000 victims in New York State.
Identity thieves obtain a personal piece of information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, address, and use it to run up credit card balances, write bad checks, take out loans, and ultimately, ruin your credit rating. According to Senator Fuschillo, New York State's ID Theft Law now establishes three new crimes of identity theft, from misdemeanors to felonies and increases the maximum sentence to seven years in prison. Additionally, the law provides for court-ordered restitutions to victims who have suffered out-of-pocket losses, and allows victims to sue in civil court to recover damages done to their credit ratings.
"This legislation not only protects the citizens of New York State from these types of thieves, but punishes those thieves and, hopefully, will dissuade criminals from committing these crimes," Fuschillo said.
According to Fuschillo, if you become a victim, call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) to get a copy of the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft Affidavit form. This affidavit will help you report information to many companies using just one standard form, simplifying the process. For more information on how to ensure that your credit rating remains in good standing, or to order a credit report or report an incident of fraud, you can contact the following credit bureaus: Equifax (www.equifax.com), 1-800-685-1111; Experian (www.Experian.com), 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); or TransUnion (www.transunion.com), 1-800-916-8800.
Below are tips to protect you and your family from identity theft:
Do guard your computer password and use only secure lines to transmit financial information via the Internet. Look for an unbroken key or lock in the corner of your computer screen to signify a secure connection.
Don't give credit card, debit card, or bank account information over the Internet or phone, unless you've initiated the contact and/or you are dealing with an established business that you know.
Do know the privacy policies of businesses with which you deal and websites that you visit.
Don't provide personal information to merchants or sales clerks that isn't required.
Do register for New York State's 'Do Not Call' Registry to reduce the possibility of telemarketing fraud.
Don't reply to 'spam' emails. Replying tells the spammer that your email address is active. Instead, notify your Internet provider of the offender.
Do talk about privacy concerns with your children. Everyone should understand the importance of protecting personal information.
Don't use obvious, easy-to-guess passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using your mother's maiden name, your birth date or the last four digits of your Social Security Number.
Do ask about information security procedures in your workplace. Find out who has access to your personal information and verify that records are kept in a secure location.
Do guard your mail and trash from theft. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox and deposit outgoing mail in official post office boxes.