Senate Passes Fuschillo Bills To Protect Consumers From Identity Theft

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

May 17, 2006

The New York State Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District), Chairman of the Senate’s Consumer Protection Committee, that would give consumers a proactive way to prevent identity theft. Also passed by the Senate today was Senator Fuschillo’s legislation that would target identity thieves who use email scams to steal people’s private information.

"Identity theft is a very serious crime that is on the rise. It can wreak havoc on an individual’s finances and take years to recover from," said Senator Fuschillo, who was himself once a victim of identity theft. "As technology evolves and criminals devise new ways to steal an individual’s private information, the State must create stronger laws to protect its citizens. These bills would dramatically increase a person’s ability to protect themselves from identity theft."

Senator Fuschillo was joined in Albany by North Bellmore resident Denise Curro, an identity theft victim, and her mother, Angela. Denise had her wallet stolen in North Carolina in 1998, and although she reported the crime to authorities immediately afterwards, she had her identity stolen. Since that time, the thief used Denise’s name to open over 50 different accounts, multiple addresses, and even get married, effectively destroying her credit rating. Denise is still dealing with the ramifications today.

Senator Fuschillo’s legislation would allow consumers to place a security freeze on their credit. One of the greatest obstacles for an identity thief to overcome, a security freeze blocks all access to a consumer’s credit reports. A consumer who places a security freeze is provided a unique PIN or password that must be given to a credit reporting agency each time the consumer wants to allow access to their credit information. This effectively cuts off a thief's ability to get credit, loans and leases in the consumer’s name.

This legislation was developed after several joint public hearings of the Senate and Assembly Consumer Protection Committees. These hearings examined security freeze laws in other states, and solicited input from the State Consumer Protection Board, consumer advocacy groups, and business organizations.

Senator Fuschillo’s "anti-phishing act of 2006" would provide the Attorney General, private industry and nonprofit organizations the ability to pursue civil remedies against those who defraud New York residents through this scheme.

The phishing scam involves a phony e-mail message supposedly from a legitimate web site being sent to an unsuspecting consumer in an effort to obtain personal information from individuals. The email conveys, under the guise of the legitimate business or group such as Ebay, Microsoft or other companies, that the consumer needs to submit private information to a linked web site.

Since the message and the web site appear legitimate, through the use of real company logos and set up, many unsuspecting consumers have submitted information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and personal data only to find that they have become a victim of identity theft. Once the "phishers" record this information, they utilize it to open new accounts, make illegal purchases and pass themselves off as the consumer.

These two bills were passed by both the Senate and the Assembly, and will be delivered to the Governor.

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