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Tuesday, February 26, 2008


The bulletin on ID theft from the U.S. Postal Service came in the mail last Friday with information supplied by the Federal Trade Commission. It was mailed to “Postal Customers” across the country so you may have to rescue it from your pile of things to read. If you can’t find it, go to the FTC site where the information originated. This is good advice and I recommend that everyone study the mailing or website, and keep it available for quick reference. In keeping with yesterday’s post on LifeLock, the company that sells ID theft protection services, it was made clear that “I do not believe in paying for identity theft protection that any individual can do free.” As an example, companies like LifeLock cannot protect you against a theft in progress, but the FTC information covers this in detail. The USPS brochure is headlined “Avoid ID Theft: Deter – Detect – Defend.” You’re covered from taking steps to stop the crime to how to handle being a victim. As an example, you are cautioned on six points for prevention including shredding, not giving up personal info like your Social Security number, and watching your online habits. That’s deterrence. Also be alert to detect possible fraud by checking on bills that don’t arrive on time, denial of credit without reason, and ordering free credit reports. If it happens, you can place a fraud alert on your credit report, close breached accounts, file a police report and file a complaint with the FTC. The circular even forecasts how ID theft can happen to you: dumpster diving for private info; skimming credit card numbers; phishing thieves pretending to be your banker, etc.; changing your address to divert sensitive documents; and just plain stealing your mail, wallet, etc. This is useful information and you’ll be glad you read it! Another good source for information on the identity crisis, as well as advice on preventing or dealing with the fraud, is the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can click on “Victim Resources” or “Consumer Resources” at the top of the page for answers to your questions, or visit the “Reference Library” in the left column. I recommend you go to the “breach list” appearing in red in the last paragraph, then check “scam alerts” for the latest on what the crooks are doing. You can find all of this on ITRC’s Home page in the link, above. I also recommend Privacy Rights Clearinghouse which has two of the best references for data breaches in their “Chronology” and “ID Stats” from Javelin Research. Both PRC and ITRC have been riding the crest of the identity theft wave, and have aided thousands in preventing victimization or help them recover from it. There are many who still remain apathetic about the potential of ID theft in their household, but fortunately the numbers are decreasing due to non-profit organizations like ITRC and PRC, and the non-stop media coverage over this crime. But that’s not good enough until we get the apathy level down to zero percent. Where do you stand?

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