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CPB enforces ID theft law

A new law to protect consumers against identity theft is in effect in response to the most common consumer fraud complaint in the United States.
“As Chair of the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee, the issue of identity theft has been a major component of my agenda to protect New Yorkers. This new legislation strengthens the existing identity theft laws we worked so vigorously to enact in 2002, and continues to address issues that have arisen with the ever growing world of technology,” announced Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer.
Protecting consumers from identity theft has been a top priority for the New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB), which has developed strategies to help enforce the law.
The CPB monitors methods of placing and removing a “Security Freeze,” which lets consumers “freeze” or lock access to their credit report. After a surge in violations, the CPB held a public hearing last February to assess the effectiveness and accessibility of the Security Freeze.
Under the new law consumers can use a toll-free phone number or a secured Internet communication to place or lift a Security Freeze, instead of having to contact the credit reporting agencies by overnight or certified mail. In 2009, the law will let consumers lift the Security Freeze within 15 minutes, and by 2010, freeze their credit reports in one business day.
The CPB will implement new ways to place or lift a Security Freeze that will be free to victims of domestic abuse. Other initiatives include raising awareness through a web campaign and helping consumers to spot “skimmer” devices, which can be used to obtain personal information from credit cards.
By strengthening relations with state agencies, the CPB will help ensure that guidelines to restrict the use of Social Security numbers by employers, business or government are followed.
“This new bill wisely restricts the use of Social Security numbers by employers and public agencies, and improves the ability of consumers to place a security freeze on their credit accounts,” said Chuck Bell, Program Director for Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, based in Yonkers, NY, which will collaborate with the CPB.
Additionally, the CPB will act as a liaison between the victim and any state or other governmental or non-governmental entities to help victims recover from the damages of identity theft.
Victims will find new and updated information as well as liaison and mediation services through the CPB’s Identity Theft and Mitigation Program. Consumer advisors will intervene and troubleshoot in varied situations, as well as with creditors, financial institutions, credit-reporting agencies, utilities and employers.
Working with victim service providers, the CPB will help consumers track and determine the number of hours and the value of the time used to repair their credit standing due to identity theft so that they can obtain proper restitution.
Along with the CPB’s public awareness campaign to reduce identity theft victimization, the law will help connect victims with resources. The CPB’s train-the-trainer program will teach victim service providers, social workers, law enforcement, unions, senior citizen groups, clergy, educators, bankers and others by teaching them how to help victims of identity theft.
“With the passage of this law, New York demonstrates a real commitment to reducing the incidence of identity theft and providing meaningful assistance to the victims of this crime,” said Mary Lou Leary, Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime.
“Victims will be able to receive restitution for the time they spend working to repair the damage of the identity theft, and assistance of a State office as they work with law enforcement and credit bureaus in the aftermath of this crime.”

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