Senator Fuschillo Hosts Joint Legislative Public Hearing To Combat Identity Theft

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

November 22, 2005

Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District), Chair of the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection, was joined by Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer (23rd Assembly District), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection, in holding a public hearing to examine the need for security freezes to combat identity theft.

The hearing was a joint meeting of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee and the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee and was held on the campus of Farmingdale State University in Farmingdale.

"Identity theft continues to grow at an alarming rate throughout our state and is an issue that constantly needs to be examined. This issue of security freeze is an important one to be looked at by the committees to determine if it can provide additional protections to consumers." stated Senator Fuschillo.

The hearing examined the need for a law that would allow New York residents to freeze their credit files, and if such a law is needed, what form it should take. Security freezes block all access to consumer credit reports and can prevent identity thieves from taking out new loans and credit in the name of a victim. 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.

According to written testimony, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) "urges your committees to support enacting a strong credit report freeze law and related legislation that will reduce identity theft and make it easier for victims to clear their good names. Other states have passed strong laws in this area and New Yorkers should not remain second-class citizens when it comes to identity theft protections and personal privacy."

"The Retail Council of New York State understands and appreciates Senator Fuschillo’s continued focus on protecting the privacy of everyone who shops in our stores, as well as his concern that retailers can continue to offer the services that consumers take advantage of every day," stated the organization’s Director of Government Relations Ted Potrikus. "While we are concerned that a ‘file freeze’ would hinder access to instant credit, we are committed to working with the two committees as they continue to focus on this important issue."

Others who offered testimony at the hearing included representatives from the American Insurance Association, the New York State Consumer Protection Board, the Consumer Union, the Consumer Data Industry Association, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America and State Farm Insurance.

According to Senator Fuschillo and Assemblywoman Pheffer, the hearing also looked into potential procedures for placing and removing a security freeze, the advantages and disadvantages of placing a freeze, and the experience of states that have implemented similar laws.

"This hearing is part of the Legislature's continuing effort to protect the citizens of New York State from identity theft," Assemblywoman Pheffer said. "In 2002, we made identity theft a crime, in 2003 we enacted a law prohibiting businesses from printing consumers' full credit or debit card numbers on receipts, and this year we enacted a law requiring notification to consumers of security breaches of their personal information. Now we are examining security freezes as a potential tool to fight identity theft."

"The testimony we received from businesses and consumers will allow the joint legislative committees to move forward towards a goal of adding greater consumer protections laws. We must do all in our part to ensure that New York residents are afforded the best possible remedies to protect themselves from the burgeoning crime of identity theft," concluded Senator Fuschillo.

This hearing continues Senator Fuschillo’s efforts in the fight to protect the rights of New York consumers. He is the author of New York State’s ‘Do Not Call’ Registry, he fought to enact valuable gift card protections and this year, he was successful in passing a new law which will give consumers the right to know when their private information is stolen or compromised from computer files of businesses and state agencies. The new law will take effect this December.