Protecting Consumers Against Scams

August 28, 2012
Dear Constituent,

I thought you might be interested in learning about legislation passed this year, and recently signed into law by Governor Cuomo, to help protect New Yorker’s against consumer scams. These new laws will protect our privacy and guard against unwanted communications.

First, legislation was signed to prohibit calls that have prerecorded messages. Consumers can still receive prerecorded messages if they wish and have given their consent. In addition, telemarketers are now required to provide consumers with the option to put their phone number on a do-not-call list. No longer can they claim they cannot put you on a do-not-call list. All telemarketers, both in state and out of state, must register with the NYS Department of State and can have their registration suspended or revoked if they break the law. I wish these new laws would have gone further to ban political robo-calls, but they are a step in the right direction.

We also passed legislation which will improve protections of New Yorkers’ social security account numbers. In recent years consumer scams have been more dependent on a person’s social security number, and these new laws will help prevent a social security number from falling into the wrong hands. One of the bills will strengthen existing protections from requiring a person to disclose his or her social security number for any purpose. Those providing services cannot refuse to help based on an individual’s refusal to disclose his or her number. There are exceptions as to when a social security number can still be required, such as to meet government requirements, for use in connection with employment, and for credit-related activities. Another piece of legislation will prohibit 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.

Additional legislation which passed this year and is now 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. People are often taken advantage of in these situations, and unknowing consumers pay costly telephone charges for calling to see if they have won a prize or contest.

All of these new laws take effect within the next few months, depending on how quickly they can be implemented by state agencies. For more information about the prevention of consumer scams, please visit: www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/.

In addition, Governor Cuomo signed a series of bills, which I supported, to make solar energy more affordable for homeowners and businesses. One piece of legislation, which takes effect immediately, will provide statewide tax credits for the lease of solar equipment and power purchase agreements where the agreement spans at least ten years. Another bill creates a statewide sales tax exemption as of January 1, 2013 for commercial solar equipment, and allows municipalities and cities to exclude these costs from local sales tax. For more information on these credits and exemptions, please visit: http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/.

I hope this information is useful. Please feel free to share with others who may benefit from learning about these new laws. If you have any questions please feel free to contact my District Office at (914) 941-1111 or e-mail me here at galefs@assembly.state.ny.us.

Sincerely,
Sandy Galef
Member of Assembly