Opinion

Commission ranked New York 8th in the country for per capita identity theft complaints. Today, Senator Kemp Hannon announced new statutes effective in 2009 that strengthen New York State's identity theft laws and help protect you from the fraudulent use of your personal information.

Senator Hannon said, "Victims of identity theft have a difficult task repairing their financial record, credit rating and well-being. They require assistance and intervention to address their needs and navigate various public and private systems. New identity theft laws help address this problem in numerous ways."

According to the new law, New York State residents who become victims of identity theft can seek assistance from the Consumer Protection Board Identity Theft Prevention and Mitigation Program, which helps victims undo damage to their financial and credit history.

Important confidentiality protections are extended to public entities to prevent intentional communication of Social Security numbers to the public. State and political subdivisions cannot require individuals to transmit their Social Security numbers over the Internet or print Social Security numbers on mailed materials. Furthermore, employers are prohibited from posting more than the last four digits of an employee's Social Security number, or placing Social Security numbers in files with open access.

The possession of "skimmer" devices, which can obtain personal identifying information from credit cards, is outlawed. Any individual whose confidential personal information is disclosed illegally will be able to bring an action and recover actual damages. Also, victims of identity theft are now able to obtain restitution for the value of the time they spend fixing damage a criminal has inflicted.

In addition, since November 2006 consumers have been able to help prevent and mitigate identity theft by placing a "security freeze" on their credit report, which blocks access to credit information and prevents opening new accounts or borrowing money using another's personal information. A statute effective Jan. 1, 2010 will provide consumers more accessible methods for placing and lifting a freeze by requiring credit reporting agencies to place a security freeze on an identity theft victim's credit report within 24 hours of receiving notice and proper identification. The statute will also require credit bureaus to "thaw" a consumer's credit file within 15 minutes of receipt of the request.

Senator Hannon added, "Data security is making headlines nearly every day. The heightened level of vulnerability and exposure created by the compilation of large electronic databases necessitates a greater level of risk sensitivity. Victims of identity theft and financial fraud in New York State will indeed benefit from the important assistance, information and resources now available."


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