Statement By Attorney General Eliot Spitzer Regarding Passage Of Identity Theft Legislation

Identity theft is a problem of epidemic proportions, victimizing hundreds of thousands of consumers every year and costing individuals and businesses billions of dollars annually.

New York ranks second among states with the greatest overall number of victims of identity theft, and New York City has the dubious distinction of being the city with the highest number of reported identity theft victims, according to the FTC.

My office has made it a priority to fight identity theft. In recent months, the office has prosecuted several identity theft cases, two of which have resulted in felony pleas. In another case, a 20-count indictment was obtained against three individuals who used stolen DMV data to impersonate others.

The Attorney General's office has conducted seminars statewide to inform consumers about the importance of guarding their personal information and has published and disseminated a comprehensive brochure on privacy laws and tips. The office also has assisted hundreds of consumers in getting unauthorized charges removed from credit card accounts.

In addition, my office developed a privacy agenda that includes, among other important initiatives, tough felony penalties for identity theft. In recent weeks, I urged state lawmakers to approve ID theft legislation and I am pleased that this now has occurred.

This legislation -- which is very similar to the bill I originally proposed -- defines identity theft in penal law and enacts stiff felony penalties. The legislation enables prosecutors to focus on the root of the crime, the so-called "brokers" who compile personal information and then sell it to identity thieves. The bill also authorizes the court to order restitution to cover a victim's costs and losses, even those associated with false information that damages a consumer's credit file.

I commend the members of the Senate and Assembly for approving this very important legislation.