Senator Fuschillo Joined By Aarp In Fighting Identity Theft

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

December 16, 2005

Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District), Chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee, was joined by Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky (92nd Assembly District), Chairman of the Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, in announcing new legislation that would combat the growth of the Internet identity theft scheme called phishing. Microsoft, AARP and other groups also participated in the announcement to signify their support for the legislation and to assist in the fight.

"Today, the combined efforts of both the private and public sector to combat phishing is a move in the right direction to afford greater protection to New York consumers. Those who perpetrate these crimes need to know that they will be strongly punished in New York State. This legislation would send that message and provide New York residents with the identity theft protections they deserve," stated Senator Fuschillo, Chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee.

The legislation that Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman Brodsky have introduced in their respective houses 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. This bipartisan effort will make New York one of the leaders in fighting Internet fraud.

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 group, 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.

"It is reprehensible that these thieves would take advantage of and scam people, especially those who want to make a difference and contribute to charities" said Assemblyman Brodsky. "Not only does phishing harm the economy and consumers; it is a homeland security issue because some phishing operations are known to aid terrorist activities. Our bipartisan legislation will help stop it. I will continue to work with this broad coalition to see that this bill becomes law."

Now costing billions of dollars and invading the privacy of millions of consumers, the growth of phishing since its inception is astounding. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, a national association of law enforcement and industry members, found that 150 million phishing emails are sent to people daily. In October 2005 alone, the Anti-Phishing Working Group found that there were 15,820 unique phishing attacks, 4,367 unique phishing sites and 96 brands were hijacked by phishers.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation calls phishing the "hottest, and most troubling, new scam on the Internet." Phishing emails have been sent from identity thieves posing as legitimate businesses and government agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Recently, phishing attacks have capitalized on recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.

Assemblyman Brodsky and Senator Fuschillo were joined by a broad coalition including Microsoft, AARP, Cable Telecommunications Association of New York and the New York State Telecommunications Association.

"We recognize and embrace our responsibility to make the Internet safer, so that citizens, businesses, governments and other organizations can realize the full benefits of the Internet," said Microsoft Internet Safety Enforcement Attorney Aaron Kornblum. "Microsoft regularly works with policy makers and law enforcement officials throughout the country to enact comprehensive and effective laws to make this goal a reality. We especially look forward to collaborating with New York policy makers to address a comprehensive legislative solution that will bring a stop to these nefarious and fraudulent phishing attacks."

"New York State ranked sixth in the nation for identity theft complaints from persons over the age of fifty and as the number of older New Yorkers using the Internet skyrockets so does their risk to be phished," said Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. "AARP commends Assemblyman Brodsky and Senator Fuschillo for advocating for legislation to combat identity theft over the Internet and protect all New Yorkers."

"New York State must remain vigilant in its efforts to combat identity theft and this legislation will continue that fight. Those who utilize these types of schemes must be held accountable for their crimes," concluded Senator Fuschillo. "As the Chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee, I will pursue any means necessary to make sure that the rights of New York consumers are fully protected from these criminals."