August 14, 2012
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Signs Bills to Better Protect New Yorkers' Privacy and Combat Consumer Scams

TOP Governor Cuomo Signs Bills to Better Protect...

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed a series of bills to better protect New Yorkers' privacy and personal information, and help combat consumer scams.


The new laws include measures to prohibit the hiring of inmates for any job that would give them access to the Social Security numbers of other people (A.8375-A / S.7594.A), to limit instances where entities are allowed to request New Yorkers' Social Security numbers (A.8992-A / S.6608-A), and to improve consumer regulations to prohibit prize award schemes that require a customer to make a pay-per-call service phone call (A.4365-A / S.7595).


"New Yorkers deserve the strongest protections possible to avoid scams and schemes that can be extremely costly and damaging," Governor Cuomo said. "The bills signed today will ensure that New Yorkers' personal information is kept private, and will also help protect our residents from falling victim to enticing pay-per-call prize schemes. I thank the bill sponsors for their and hard work on these pieces of legislation."


Prohibiting Employing Inmates in a Capacity that Involves Access to or Processing of Personal Identifying Information


The new law prohibits the hiring of inmates in correctional facilities for any job that would give them access to, or involves them in, the collecting or processing of Social Security numbers of other individuals.


The law takes effect in 90 days.


Improving Protections of New Yorkers' Social Security Account Numbers


The new law strengthens existing protections to prohibit certain entities from requiring a person to disclose his or her Social Security number (SSN) for any purpose, and from refusing to provide any service based on an individual's refusal to disclose his or her number.


Current law prohibits persons and entities from intentionally making available to the public an individuals SSN, including printing an individuals SSN on a card or tag required for the individual to access products or services, requiring a person to provide his or her SSN over the Internet except through a secure connection, and printing a persons SSN on the outside of materials being mailed to a person. The law signed today will limit the ability of entities to collect individuals SSNs in the first place. The law's provisions are subject to multiple exceptions, including use of SSNs for government requirements, use for internal verification or fraud investigation, use related to banking and credit-related activities, use in connection with employment, insurance or tax purposes, and other instances.


The law takes effect in 120 days.


Prohibiting Pay-Per-Call Prize Schemes


The new law prohibits prize award schemes that require a customer to make a phone call to claim the prize and the charge for the call is greater than rates authorized by current statute. The law is designed to protect New Yorkers from prize award schemes where the customer is told that he or she may be the winner, or has been selected to win a prize or contest, but is required to make a costly phone call to claim the potential prize. So-called 900 numbers are a well-known type of pay-per-call service, but such a service can be any phone number where the caller is assessed a charge for completing the call and/or is assessed a charge based on the length of the call such as a per-minute charge.

The law takes effect in 30 days.


Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, sponsor of S.7594.A and S.7595, said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation and working with us to protect consumers. Prison inmates have no right to the access of an individual's social security number. Additionally, consumers should not be preyed upon by scam artists that swindle them into paying exorbitant fees. These new laws will help prevent residents from being victimized by scam artists and criminals."


Senator Lee Zeldin, sponsor of S.6608-A, said, "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. This bill will help protect New Yorkers from these potentially devastating threats by restricting the dissemination and collection of Social Security Numbers, especially in circumstances where disclosing ones SSN is unnecessary or not required by law. I commend Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation and for his partnership in our continued efforts to help protect New Yorkers from Identity Theft."


Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz, sponsor of A.8992-A and A.8375-A, said, " I am very pleased that the Governor has signed both of my bills into law. The problem of identity theft is more serious than ever, so it is important that we do everything we can to restrict access to personal information. Both of these bills will do just that and will go a long way towards protecting New Yorkers from identity theft."


Assembly Member Nick N. Perry, sponsor of A.4365-A, said, "With the governors signature making this bill a law, scam artists can no longer use the allure of a valuable prize or cash award to prey upon unsuspecting citizens by having them place a phone call to claim their winnings, which will ultimately cost more than the prize itself. The old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, is simply just a warning, but now we have gone a step further to protect New Yorkers against unscrupulous con-artists who spend their time inventing these scams to rip-off our vulnerable senior population. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law."