Senator Onorato Sponsors New Legislation To Help Foil Identity Thieves

George Onorato

April 05, 2006

In an effort to protect his constituents and consumers statewide from identity theft, State Senator George Onorato (D-Queens) is sponsoring new legislation (S6363) that would prohibit credit card companies from mailing "convenience checks" to their customers without their prior knowledge or consent.

"Almost everyone who has a credit card has received unsolicited convenience checks in the mail that can be used to transfer balances from other cards or make purchases," said Senator Onorato. "However, some of these checks come with blank amounts or are pre-printed with the customer’s name and address, making them easy for identity thieves to steal and cash. This leaves consumers in a position where they need to prove that the check was fraudulently cashed, which can often constitute a real burden."

Under the Senator’s legislation, credit card companies would be prohibited from mailing unsolicited checks, drafts or other negotiable instruments to consumers without prior written authorization. The bill would impose a civil fine of up to $1,000 for a first violation, and up to $5,000 for subsequent violations. The measure is currently under consideration by the Senate Standing Committee on Consumer Protection.

"While some credit card companies require that consumers call a specific number to verify their identity before activating the checks, that isn’t the case across the board," said Senator Onorato. "This can leave consumers vulnerable to identity theft and financial harm."

A number of other states have already passed laws addressing this issue or are considering similar legislation.

"In the meantime, I urge my constituents to contact their credit card companies to inquire about their policies concerning convenience checks, and to speak up if they don’t want to receive them," said Senator Onorato. "Furthermore, those who do receive convenience checks and don’t plan to use them should shred or otherwise completely destroy them before they go out in the trash."