Senator Steve Saland (R,C Poughkeepsie) was joined today by Columbia County District Attorney Beth G. Cozzolino and Amy Collins, the North Country Outreach Coordinator for the Consumer Protection Board at a public forum at Columbia-Greene Community College to discuss the scope of the identity theft problem and steps that can be taken to increase protection.
"Identity theft is a serious crime that has been on the rise for some time now," said Senator Saland. "It can wreck havoc on a person's financial security and takes years to recover from. As technology evolves and criminals devise new ways to steal an individual's private information, elected officials and law enforcement must find new ways to help protect the public. I am hopeful that this forum will serve as a means to heighten awareness, of this issue and increase the public's ability to protect themselves from identity theft."
The guest panelists outlined how identity theft occurs, warning signs of identity theft, and what to do if a person has been the victim of an identity theft crime. In addition, participants were alerted on ways to take preventative actions to avoid identity theft and what various agencies are doing to combat the crime.
"Identity theft is a particularly damaging crime requiring swift action on many fronts," said Columbia County District Attorney Beth Cozzolino. "Like a terrible virus, it spreads quickly, striking randomly and often inflicting great harm on innocent victims. Officials at all levels of government, the private sector, and consumers all play critical roles in this fight against identity theft. I applaud Senator Saland's efforts in creating awareness on this issue and his legislation to address this growing menace."
New York State already has laws criminalizing identity theft by requiring consumer reporting agencies to correct false credit information and notify consumers when thieves steal consumers' personal information. However, per capita, New York still ranks 8th in the nation in the number of identity theft complaints reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and third in the total number of identity theft complaints filed. Earlier this month the Legislature passed a measure, which Senator Saland helped draft and sponsored, that enables a consumer to initiate a security freeze when they suspect their identity may have been stolen or credit compromised.
"Identity theft is the most common consumer fraud complaint, and the fastest growing financial crime, affecting approximately 10 million Americans each year," said Amy Collins, North Country Outreach Coordinator for the Consumer Protection Board. "This points to the need to heighten efforts to educate consumers on how to protect their personal information. I congratulate Senator Saland for recognizing the importance of this issue. We must continuously work together to develop new, creative ways to get the message out that consumers need to become empowered by educating themselves about the critical importance of identity protection."