Nozzolio: Enacting Identity Theft Measures A Priority

Michael F. Nozzolio

May 31, 2005

Albany – New York State Senator Michael F. Nozzolio (R/C- Fayette) recently participated in a Senate hearing on identity theft legislation. Representatives of the New York State Retail Council, the state Consumer Protection Board, credit reporting agencies, the banking industry, the insurance industry, MCI Communications and others testified.

Senator Nozzolio is sponsoring legislation (S. 1751) that would place limits on the use and sharing of social security numbers without the consent of the individual.

“The easiest way for a criminal to commit identity theft is to obtain an individual’s Social Security number. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to acquire or steal someone’s Social Security number,” said Senator Nozzolio. “This legislation would limit the use and dissemination of Social Security numbers, and thereby help better protect consumers from having their identity stolen.”

In 2002, Senator Nozzolio sponsored and was instrumental in the adoption of legislation that made identity theft a crime in New York State. Senator Nozzolio took the lead in fighting to establish criminal penalties for identity theft after meeting with Cynthia Watkins, a retired elementary school teacher from Auburn who had been the victim of identity theft. The law was a major victory for New York’s consumers and enhanced the ability of prosecutors to hold criminals accountable for identity theft crimes. In addition, the law enabled victims to secure restitution for their losses.

At the Senate hearing, Senator Nozzolio noted the all-too prevalent use of Social Security numbers for personal identification, including for student loans and health insurance.

“The widespread use of Social Security numbers for personal identification is far too common, and it is far too easy for criminals to access and steal this information. This represents a serious threat to an individual’s privacy and financial security,” Nozzolio added.

Identity theft legislation that has been introduced in the Senate this year includes measures that would; enable consumers to place “security freezes” on their credit reports if they suspect they are victims of identity theft; limit the use of social security numbers; require public notification of security breaches relating to personal data; give consumers greater control over their financial information; and authorize insurers to sell identity theft insurance.

The problem of identity theft has been enormous in New York State. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 17,680 cases of identity theft were reported by New York State residents in 2004. Of those, 56% (9,951) were reported in New York City. Rochester reported 394 cases; Buffalo 232; Yonkers 195; and Syracuse 113. New York’s 17,680 cases of known identity theft was the third highest state total. Only California with 43,839 cases, and Texas with 26,454 cases had more in 2004.