Senator Steve Saland (R,C Poughkeepsie) was joined today by Edward T. McLoughlin, Bureau Chief for the Dutchess County District Attorney's Office, and Cindy Connors DeSimone, Upstate New York Outreach Manager for the NYS Consumer Protection Board, at a public forum at the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home 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 wreak 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.
"In a time when it is fashionable to categorize issues as federal, state, or local, identity theft stands out as genuinely requiring a coordinated response at all levels," said McLoughlin. "State and local officials, district attorneys, and police departments work cooperatively, while also providing the first helping hand to victims, who often turn to their local police departments or state consumer protection agencies for assistance. However, without an increased awareness of the private sector and consumers, the message of law enforcement won't be enough. I commend Senator Saland's efforts in increasing the public's awareness on the dangers of identity theft and the legislation he has created to give law enforcement additional tools to combat this growing problem."
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 their credit compromised.
"Identity theft is the fastest growing crime and the most common consumer fraud complaint, affecting roughly 10 million Americans every year," said DeSimone. "Clearly, with these alarming statistics, there is a need to heighten efforts to educate the public on how to protect their personal information. I applaud Senator Saland's efforts in highlighting this issue. Greater public awareness is one of the best examples of how we can work together to combat the growing threat of identity theft."