2009-01-30 / Top Stories

Governor Patterson Launches Identity Theft Measures

Governor David A. Paterson stated in this week's State of the State message that "during difficult economic times, crime often increases." In the Governor's spirit of combining "ability with determination to produce a better New York for all families," the New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) has launched its new Identity Theft Prevention and Mitigation Program (Program). The Program is designed to provide resources to help New Yorkers prevent identity theft and aid victims in conquering the consequences of this crime.

"No longer will New York consumers who are already on overload dealing with the fallout of identity theft need to hunt for assistance and information," said Mindy A. Bockstein, Chairperson and Executive Director of the CPB. "Thanks to the actions of Governor Paterson and the New York State Legislature, victims can now turn to the CPB's Identity Theft Prevention and Mitigation Program to receive direct assistance and key information that can save them time, money and additional aggravation."

As part of the Program's launch, the CPB is pleased to unveil its new "Are You Consumer Savvy?" quiz show video. The video is available on the CPB's website at www.nysconsumer.gov. This Consumer Savvy episode has been created to help consumers understand, prevent and deal with identity theft.

The CPB's Program hosts a central repository of identity theft-related resources and tools to raise awareness and assist consumers. Consumer advisors have been trained to intervene and troubleshoot in varied contexts, including with creditors, financial institutions, credit-reporting agencies, utilities and employers.

Additionally, for the first time in New York State, victims of identity theft may be entitled to restitution equal to the value of the time they spend fixing the damage of identity theft under a new law. The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Identity Theft Resource Center estimates that it can take as much as 330 hours to resolve problems associated with identity theft.

The CPB developed two Journals: the Identity Theft Victim Journal and the Identity Theft Victim Restitution Journal, a specific tool to help victims detail the expenses related to the hours spent on repairing the damage done to their financial records and credit standing.

Governor Paterson's identity theft initiative has also enhanced New York's Security Freeze law, making it easier for consumers to place a "freeze" or lock on access to credit reports. A security freeze may be made in writing, via telephone or online, and can prevent an unauthorized person from opening up a new account or getting credit in another person's name. Credit reporting agencies must comply with such requests within three business days. The CPB is statutorily responsible for monitoring the time and technology it takes to place and remove a security freeze in New York State. The new law further extends important confidentiality protections to Social Security numbers (SSn) used by public entities and employers, preventing the intentional communication of these identifiers to the public.

In addition to the new Identity Theft Prevention and Mitigation Program, the Agency continues to work closely with advocacy groups and others to advance identity theft prevention training. In November 2008, when the CPB issued its first Business Privacy Guide: How to Handle Personal Identifiable Information and Limit the Prospects of Identity Theft, New York State became one of three (3) States in the nation to provide guidance to businesses on the use and secure retention of personal identifiable information. The Guide explains some of the core privacy and security principles as well as laws applicable to businesses and provides best practices to achieve compliance.

Additional information about the Identity Theft Prevention and Mitigation Program, identity theft prevention and response, privacy, data breach, security freeze and other related materials may be found on the CPB's website at www.nysconsumer.gov.

The CPB, established in 1970 by the New York State Legislature, is the State's top consumer watchdog and think tank. The CPB's core mission is to protect New Yorkers by publicizing unscrupulous and questionable business practices and product recalls; conducting investigations and hearings; enforcing the Do Not Call law; researching issues; developing legislation; creating consumer education programs and materials; responding to individual marketplace complaints by securing voluntary agreements; and, representing the interests of consumers before the Public Service Commission and other State and federal agencies.

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