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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Safety and online shopping"
ALBANY, Dec. 5 -- “Cyber Monday,” the day after the traditional Thanksgiving weekend start to the holiday shopping season, begins a flurry of online purchasing which, according to reports, generated more than $1.25 billion this year – the heaviest day of online spending in history.
One thing we know for certain about our rapid, global march into the world of e-commerce is that it’s become big, big business. But we also recognize that there’s an unprecedented exchange of online information occurring, which compels this reminder: Don’t overlook the privacy and other public policy issues raised by our ongoing leap into this age of modern technology.
The New York State Senate has held a number of legislative hearings over the years to give creditors, law enforcement officials, computer security experts, and others the opportunity to share their thoughts on mapping out more effective strategies to address a host of privacy concerns. These concerns include one that’s become commonly known as “identity theft,” arguably the overriding fear underlying our caution in today’s online economy.
It’s been reported that identity theft costs more than eight million American consumers an estimated $40 billion annually. According to the Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse, in 2009 New York State ranked eighth in the nation in per capita identity theft complaints. It’s clear that the availability of information in computer databases and the rapid growth of Internet commerce have produced a new breed of criminals who abuse technologies to steal consumer information and ruin consumer credit. Indeed, identity theft is considered the No. 1 and fastest-growing financial and consumer crimes of this era.
The tactics of today’s cybercriminals change as fast as our technology, often faster. It all serves to highlight the ongoing challenge to keep identity theft laws ahead of identity thieves. New York became the 43rd state in the nation to enact an identity theft law in 2002. But security studies continually point to the overriding reality that we have to update our laws as frequently as cybercriminals update their ability to break them. It’s no easy task.
One important new law approved a few years ago enables consumers to place a “security freeze” on their credit reports if they suspect they are victims of identity theft. A security freeze prevents an identity thief from taking out new loans and credit under their victim’s name. We’ve also strengthened New York’s identity theft protections by enacting new laws to restrict the ability of employers to use an employee’s personal information and to allow identity theft victims to obtain restitution equal to the value of the time they spend fixing the damage, which is substantial.
In fact it takes an estimated average of 14 months for an identity theft victim to discover that his or her identity has been stolen. Identity theft victims then spend at least $800 and devote more than 175 hours of their own time to clean up their credit reports after an identity theft has occurred, according to the federal General Accounting Office. Additionally, identity theft victims have been subject to other complications, including denial of loan applications, false arrest and criminal records.
In short, it’s costly and it’s time-consuming. So the first line of defense is for every consumer to be aware of identity theft, how it’s committed, and ways to protect against it. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s lead consumer protection agency, operates a website to promote online safety. Go to www.ftc.gov (click on “Identity Theft” in the Quick Finder box located on the right hand column of the home page) to access a range of tips and information to guard against Internet fraud, better protect personal information, and secure computers.
Information can also be found on the New York State Division of Consumer Protection’s website at: http://www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/identity_theft/index.htm
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869