A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
Almost every week there is news concerning a large cyberattack in which personal identifying information is compromised.
This personal information has included addresses, phone numbers and even social security and credit card information.
No one is immune to these sophisticated schemes, including the U.S. Government and it has proven hard to police for law enforcement.
Unfortunately, the hackers can be as skilled at penetrating firewalls as the companies who create the software protections.
Often the perpetrators are in another country, so penalizing criminals involves authorities in many jurisdictions, which can make finding and charging criminals difficult.
Just this summer, it was revealed that 21.5 million government employees and contractors had their personal information compromised.
Authorities believe the attack originated in China.
In response, some companies, and in this case, the U.S. Government, provide free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services for three years following the attack.
A local insurance company, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield recently experienced a cyberattack in which personal information was also compromised.
In response, the company is providing two years of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to those whose information may have been compromised.
Identity theft protection services place fraud alerts or freezes on your credit reports or remove your name from marketing mailing lists and keep track of financial accounts.
Consumers can protect themselves as well by checking monthly bank and credit statements and filing reports to the authorities if anything suspicious is found.
Knowing our rights and the law can help us protect our identities and assets.
In 2010, NYS enacted significant consumer protections.
These measures directed the Consumer Protection Board to establish a process for identifying theft victims.
They made it easier to place a freeze on a customer’s credit report and, subsequently, have the freeze be lifted quickly once the case was resolved.
Freezing your credit report restricts access to the credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
The state also passed a law which required debt collectors to stop collecting a consumer debt if the victim could prove with a police report and other documentation that he or she was indeed a victim of identity theft.
Social Security numbers are better protected thanks to measures that passed in 2012.
This law prohibited consumers from being required to disclose their Social Security numbers, unless required for tax compliance and other reasons.
This helped limit extraneous use of Social Security numbers being used to identify someone or an account when another number or another name could be used in its place.
If you believe your identity has been stolen, first contact local authorities.
Make sure to keep a copy of the report because financial institutions will need you to provide verification.
An Identify Theft Victim Kit is available at the Federal Trade Commission and gives clear instructions for how to report the theft and how to follow up with authorities.
To access this kit, visit www.consumer.gov/idtheft
You may also call the hotline at 1-877-ID-THEFT.
If it is indeed an identity theft, one of the first steps is to report the theft to the three major credit bureaus.
Trans Union can be reached at 1-800-680-7289; Experian’s phone number is 1-888-397-3742 and Equifax can be reached at 1-800-525-6285.
Consumers are allowed one free credit report each year from each credit bureau.
If you believe someone has used your Social Security number to get a job, contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-269-0271 to confirm all reported earnings.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.
You can also friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.