The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Deputy Commissioner Fran Freedman and representatives from Staples and the shred company Cintas Document Management gathered in Union Square this morning to kick off the City’s fifth annual Shred Fest, a free paper-shredding event to increase public awareness about identity theft prevention. Today, from 10am to 4pm, New Yorkers can visit one of 14 locations throughout the City to shred personal documents such as bank statements, paycheck stubs and credit card applications. Documents are shredded in industrial shredders mounted with TV monitors so consumers can verify for themselves that their materials are being shredded securely and then securely disposed of and recycled for free. Complimentary personal paper shredders, donated by Staples, were given to the first four people to arrive at each location and the first person to tweet a photo of the event to @NYCDCA using the hashtag #ShredFest. Shred Fest is hosted by the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Mayor’s Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator in cooperation of the Department of Parks & Recreation, the Department of Sanitation and the Municipal Credit Union.
“Identity theft affects as many as nine million Americans each year and the damage to credit can follow a person for months, even years,” said DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz. “But there are steps you can take to help protect your identity and our fifth annual Shred Fest, with 14 locations across the five boroughs, will help highlight those steps. By shredding personal documents with the kind of identifying information thieves would use to steal your identity, by following other smart tips to help keep private information private, and by staying vigilant to detect any problem that might appear on your record, New Yorkers can be proactive about protecting their identities and their credit records.”
“Having your identity stolen can turn your life upside down, but by taking precautions like shredding personal documents, you can make sure your personal information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands,” said John Feinblatt, the Criminal Justice Coordinator and Chief Advisor to the Mayor for Policy and Strategic Planning. “Shred Fest is a free, easy and secure opportunity for New Yorkers to safely destroy their personal documents and learn how to avoid becoming victims of identity theft.”
The Federal Trade Commission reported this year that, for the 12th year in a row, its top complaint was identity theft with nearly 18,000 New Yorkers filing identity theft complaints. New York State is sixth in the nation for the number of complaints per capita. Shredding documents that contain personal identifying information before throwing them away is one of the most important ways consumers can prevent identity theft. Last year Shred Fest doubled in size with more than 3,000 New Yorkers shredding almost 78 tons of paper. With identity theft on the rise in New York, New Yorkers are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to shred their personal documents for free.
The event received generous support from the Municipal Credit Union and Staples, which donated Staples MailMate personal paper shredder for the first four participants at each location and one via Twitter. Participants also receive information on how to protect themselves against identify theft. Shredding services were generously donated by Cintas Document Management, Shred-it and Time Shred Services.
“We are thrilled to participate in Shred Fest again this year,” said Municipal Credit Union (MCU) Chairman of the Board Mark S. Brantley Esq. “Identity theft is a serious issue affecting everyone. MCU is vigilant about educating our 325,000 members about how to properly protect themselves from identity theft, and we’re happy to be a part of an event like Shred Fest that brings this important message to all New Yorkers. We encourage everyone to protect themselves and come to any of the fourteen Shred Fest sites to discard their personal information.”
“We’re pleased to be back at Shred Fest to remind New Yorkers that shredding is an easy, effective and inexpensive way to safeguard personal and business information,” said Dave D’Angelo, Senior Vice President, Staples Brands. “As the most trusted brand in office products, Staples is proud to offer a wide variety of shredders that fit the needs for home office to small businesses. Staples also offers confidential shredding services throughout the year at all retail locations.”
“Cintas is very pleased to join the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs in sounding the alarm on identity theft and prevention to our fellow New Yorkers,” said Cintas Document Management General Manager Matt Peloso. “Thanks to our great residents and businesses of New York, Cintas has been fortunate to grow our presence in the New York market, and is excited to see the growth and awareness of the Shred Fest event increase every year.”
New Yorkers are invited to bring mail and other documents that contain personal information to be shredded and securely disposed. Stapled documents can be shredded, however, documents bound with metal binder clips cannot. Suggested documents include:
- Bank statements that are at least one year old and do not contain tax-related information
- Pay stubs (only after you have received your Form W-2)
- Credit card applications
- Documents that contain your Social Security Numbers, account numbers, password/PIN information, birth dates, private contact information and signatures
Shred Fest is part of DCA’s ongoing campaign to raise awareness about what New Yorkers can do to protect themselves from identity theft. The campaign also includes distribution of 15,000 Shred Fest flyers in English and Spanish, posting 600 Shred Fest posters in English and Spanish, 5,000 advertisements displayed on the Department of Sanitation’s trucks and sweepers to promote the free paper-shredding event. Municipal Credit Union also publicized the event in a mailing to more than 300,000 customers. For more information about locations and identity theft prevention tips, visit nyc.gov/shredfest or call 311.
DCA enforces the Consumer Protection Law and other related business laws throughout New York City. Empowering businesses and consumers to ensure a fair and vibrant marketplace, DCA licenses more than 78,000 businesses in 55 different industries. Through targeted outreach, partnerships with community and trade organizations, and informational materials, DCA educates consumers and businesses alike about their rights and responsibilities. DCA’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) is the first local government initiative in the nation with a mission to educate, empower, and protect New Yorkers with low incomes so they can build assets and make the most of their financial resources. Toward that end, OFE seeks to increase access to high-quality, low-cost financial education and counseling; improve access to income-boosting tax credits; connect households to safe and affordable banking and asset-building products and services; and enforce and improve consumer protections to enhance financial stability. For more information, call 311 or visit DCA online at nyc.gov/consumers.
The Criminal Justice Coordinator is the Mayor’s chief policy advisor on criminal justice matters and is responsible for developing and implementing policies, legislation, and strategies in the fields of public safety and criminal justice. The Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator also serves as a liaison to the City’s prosecutors, the New York State Office of Court Administration, and state and federal criminal justice agencies. The Coordinator’s Office works closely with the City’s law enforcement agencies, including the Police, Correction, Probation, and Juvenile Justice Departments.
IT’S YOUR IDENTITY…PROTECT IT! FOLLOW THESE TIPS:
Protect Your Personal Information
- Be alert to suspicious offers by phone, mail, text, and email. Avoid giving personal information over the phone, by email, text, or on social media sites. Never click on unfamiliar links even if they are from sources you trust; they could be “phishing” scams that trick you into sharing personal information by looking trustworthy. And remember email addresses and phone numbers can be spoofed (or faked) to look like they are from someone you know.
- Protect your computer, tablet, and smartphone against viruses and “malware” with security and firewall software. Avoid typing your personal information when using unsecured Wi-Fi; create strong, personal passwords; and only download software and apps from trusted sources. Don’t overshare personal information on social media sites and be cautious with geotagging softwares. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information on how to be safe, secure, and responsible online.
- Be careful when using public computers. Delete any personal documents and empty the Recycle Bin on the desktop before you log off. Check Internet settings and make sure the computer is set to delete your browsing history. Never use your credit or debit card to make online purchases on public computers.
- Review your free credit report every year. As one way to see if you have been the victim of identity theft, download your free annual credit report at annualcreditreport.com.
- Limit the cards you carry with you. Only carry credit or debit cards you plan to use and store others in a safe place. Never carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet.
Monitor Your Mail
- Be aware when your monthly bills and account statements typically arrive. Be on alert for missing statements in the mail. Sign up for electronic statements and online bill pay to avoid the risk of an identity thief using your mail.
- Review your bank and credit card statements for unusual activity. Even a few minutes’ look can alert you early to a problem.
- Put your mail on hold when you go on vacation. Visit usps.com/holdmail or call 1-800-275-8777 to request Hold Mail Service.
Be Aware When Shopping
- Check receipts. Make sure receipts do not show your credit card’s expiration date or more than its last five digits. The law requires this of New York City businesses.
- Keep your eye on your credit card when making a purchase. Some employees have used handheld machines illegally to swipe card information and use it later to hack into accounts.
- Just shred it! Machine shred papers you no longer need to save, rather than throwing them out, if they contain personal information such as your:
- Social Security Number
- Bank and credit card account numbers
- Password/PIN information
- Birth date
- Private contact information
- Go paperless. Request online account statements and pay online whenever possible.
ALREADY AN IDENTITY THEFT VICTIM? TAKE ACTION QUICKLY:
- Close all fraudulent accounts. Call the Fraud Department of each company where an account was fraudulently opened in your name or shows purchases you did not make.
- Report it. Report identity theft to your local police precinct and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338). Keep copies of the report and the complaint.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report with one of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion. By placing a fraud alert on your credit report, creditors must contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. Carefully document all correspondence.
- Consider free, one-on-one, professional financial counseling. Visit nyc.gov or call 311 and ask for an NYC Financial Empowerment Center near you. Counselors can help you sort out your financial difficulties.
IS YOUR BUSINESS PROTECTING CUSTOMERS’ INFORMATION? HERE’S HOW:
- Ask for ID. Employees should ask for identification when customers pay by credit card. If employees are suspicious of a transaction and think the card may be stolen, they should call the store’s credit card processing service and report “Code 10.” This phrase unobtrusively alerts the credit card company of potential identity theft activity.
- Collect less information. Only collect the information necessary to complete the transaction and store it only as long as needed. The less customer information you store, the less you have to protect.
- Restrict access. Make sure documents that contain customers’ identifying information, such as applications or merchant copies of credit card receipts, are not in sight of employees or the public, or otherwise accessible. A locked storage space can offer good protection.
- Safeguard computers. Install antivirus and firewall software on computers and regularly update it. Make sure that password-protected screen savers turn on once a computer is idle.
- Stay current with online security measures. Your technology manager should remain aware of new issues or areas of concern in online security. Check with the Federal trade Commission at ftc.gov for recommended resources about technology updates. Use the Federal Communications Commission’s Small Biz Cyber planner at fcc.gov/cyberplanner to create a custom cyber security plan for your company.
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