Senate Gives Final Approval To 'Security Freeze' Legislation

George Winner

May 18, 2006

Albany, N.Y.-- The State Senate today gave final legislative approval to legislation co-sponsored by Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) to allow consumers to place a "security freeze" on their credit reports if they suspect they are victims of identity theft. A security freeze would prevent an identity thief from taking out new loans and credit under their victim’s name.

"As fast as today’s technology changes, the tactics of cybercriminals change even faster. The rapid growth of Internet commerce has produced a breed of criminals who abuse new technologies to steal consumer information and ruin consumer credit," said Winner, a member of the Consumer Protection Committee. "It’s considered our No. 1 financial and consumer crime."

The legislationhas also beenapproved by the state Assembly. It must be signed by Governor George Pataki before becoming law.

Identity theft costs American consumers an estimated $50 billion a year. New York State ranks third in the nation in reported cases of identity theft, with more than 17,000 cases reported last year.

"It all serves to highlight our ongoing challenge to keep identity theft laws ahead of identity thieves," said Winner.

New York became the 43rd state in the nation to enact an identity theft law in 2002. That law, which has been updated several times, established varying levels of crime against the unlawful possession and use of personal identification information. A new state law enacted last year requires businesses to notify consumers when there’s been a theft of personal information. But Winner said that security studies consistently highlight the fact that identity theft laws need to be updated as frequently as cybercriminals update their ability to break them.

Under the new security freeze legislation, consumers would be able to place a security freeze on their consumer credit reports by sending a written request to a consumer credit reporting agency by certified or overnight mail. Consumer credit reporting agencies would then be required to restrict access to "frozen" consumer credit reports.

The Senate also acted today on a host of additional identity theft measures that are still being negotiated with the Assembly.