BY CAITLIN FISH
Senator David Carlucci hosted an identity theft forum at the New City Public Library on Wednesday Jan. 10 to answer questions and to inform citizens on ways to protect themselves from scams and identity fraud.
Senator Carlucci was joined by a panel of three experts on identity fraud. Assistant Attorney General Sandra Giorno-Tocco and Anita Manghisi and Jacob Corlyon from the New York collector’s association.
Senator Carlucci said that in the United States, identity theft is costing us over $16 billion dollars a year, a number he believes will increase, and in New York state 30 percent of people over the age of 55 have been or are going to be the victims of identity theft. Assistant Attorney General Sandra Giorno-Tocco said unsolicited calls totaled 29 billion in 2016 and the Federal Trade Commission put on their website that complaints increased by 60 percent on identity theft and fraud scams since 2010.
These alarming statistics, the senator said, is what drove him to do more research on the topic.
“We tried to drill down and figure out what can we do, what type of policies can we have in New York state to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect people from becoming the victims of identity theft.” Carlucci said. “And, if you find yourself in that situation, what tools and resources can you have to make sure we can rectify the situation.”
Senator Carlucci explained that the New York State Senate produced a report consisting of an eight point consumer protection plan to safeguard New York residents from the dangers of identity theft.
This eight point plan along with information sessions, the senator said, will help to keep New Yorkers from becoming the victims of identity fraud.
“It’s forums like this that are tremendously helpful in giving people the weapons and the tools to combat identity theft, because education and knowledge are really your best defenses,” assistant Attorney General Giorno-Tocco said.
Giorno-Tocco explained the definition of identity fraud.
“Identity fraud is a crime that happens when an imposter obtains key personal information that identifies you as you, such as your social security number or driver’s license, and then they use that information, typically, for financial gain,” Giorno-Tocco explained.
She also explained that identity theft occurs in several ways. She said the internet and unsolicited calls have become the fastest and easiest ways for scammers to extract personal data.
According to the assistant attorney general, the state is finding a rise in thieves stealing personal information from mail boxes, trash cans, wallets and smart phones. “With all of the access scammers have to your personal information, it is important to talk about blocking access,” Giorno-Tocco said.
She recommended getting a lock for mailboxes, investing in a micro-shredder as to not throw away documents with sensitive personal information, securing phones and computers with passwords, not carrying social security and Medicare/Medicaid cards in wallets, not giving personal information over the phone or internet unless initiated by you and not clicking on illegitimate links or websites that are looking for your personal data, which scammers can send via email.
Anita Manghisi from the New York collector’s association explained ways to rectify the situation if you do become the victim of identity theft.
“The first thing you need to do is to go to your local precinct and fill out an affidavit then it must be notarized and you have to give details of the alleged identity theft or fraud, and then send that information to your creditors so they are aware of the situation and can begin an investigation,” Manghisi said.
Jacob Corlyon from the New York collector’s association stated that creditors will notify you when you have outstanding debt as a way to inform you about possible identity fraud situations.
“If you do not believe that your debt is valid, more likely than not if it’s an outsource collections agency, you will receive a validation notice containing basic information such as the origination of the debt, creditor retail, the amount of the debt, information about the debt collector, where you can contact them and a disclosure of your rights,” Corlyon said. “If you look at that and believe it is not a valid check the best thing to do is to reach out as soon as possible and you can send a written notice of dispute.”
Senator Carlucci commenced the information session by stating that he and the Consumer Protection Committee are actively working on recommendations of laws to pass in New York that first make it harder for people to become victims of identity theft and then make it easier for recourse if it does happen to you.