New Law Provides Additional Protection Against Identity Theft

Written by Amy Gernon  |  26. November 2012

A new state law, which will take effect on Dec. 12, provides additional protections against identity theft.  The law makes it illegal for businesses or individuals to request Social Security Numbers, except in specifically outlined circumstances.

Increasingly, businesses and other entities have been using Social Security Numbers as general identification numbers, which is not their purpose.  The Federal Trade Commission, the Social Security Administration and the General Accounting Office have all warned consumers that providing access to sensitive personal information, especially Social Security information, paves the way for identity theft.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Lee Zeldin (R- Shirley), who serves as the Chairman of the NYS Senate Consumer Protection Committee, has said that many people “are unfortunately disclosing their Social Security numbers for other reasons that may not be legitimate."
“The widespread public exposure of our personal information, especially our Social Security numbers, coupled with the almost universal use of the internet, makes it that much easier for criminals to steal our identities,” said Senator Zeldin said in a statement in August, when the bill was signed by Gov. Cuomo. “This bill will help protect New Yorkers from these potentially devastating threats by restricting the dissemination and collection of Social Security Numbers.  
The law prohibits businesses or individuals from requiring the disclosure of a customer’s SSN, except in cases where the information is required by law -- federal, state or local tax laws, or for banking and employment situations.  The law goes on to prohibit these entities from refusing to provide service to a customer who refuses to make this information available, and also requires companies to build safeguards that prevent employees from accessing SSN information except when it is a necessary part of their job.  
Zeldin has also pointed out that many retailers request social security information for the rewards programs, which may entangle or threaten thousands of New York consumers this holiday season.  
The new law comes on the heels of a 2008 law which restricted where companies could publish Social Security Information.  The law prohibits companies from printing SSN information on mailed materials, requiring its use as login information, or from printing SSN information on identification or access cards.  
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