Wednesday, November 30, 2005

2 in 3 Americans Concerned over Personal Health Info

This year has seen a record level of company
disclosures associated with consumer personal
information and identity theft. Typically involving
social security or banking account numbers being
exposed, the common perception has been focused
toward financial institutions and their affiliated data
partners as the prime culprits.

Most consumers are largely unaware of their privacy
rights related to medical records privacy and their
protection against identity theft and social security
number fraud.

Yet, two thirds of Americans are concerned over the
privacy of their personal medical records according to a
recent national survey conducted by Forrester Research.

No doubt, fueled by recent high profile stories where
investigative reporters have uncovered instances of
private medical records being dumped in trash
containers available to anyone passing by.

No wonder, identity thieves often go "dumpster diving"
for information they can use to steal your identity,
your credit, and your money.

Case in point, a Lubbock, Texas medical facility
evidently discarded patient documents into dumpsters
behind their offices without shredding them first. The
types of personal information available to any would be
identity thief ranged from social security numbers,
addresses, to even specific diagnosis. Just enough
personal information to fill out a credit card application
or attempt to get "instant credit" under the victim's
name in most major department stores.

Or, how about in Detroit where medical records were
found 10 days ago behind a shopping center by a pedestrian.
Some of the medical information contained social
security numbers (SSN) which could be used by identity

And, an un-named hospital that discovered a nurse was
accessing medical records of local politicians and
civic leaders. The nurse was fired, but there was no evidence the
hospital ever disclosed the personal information breach to those
consumers who were exposed.

Further, the personal information of approximately
2,800 Ohio State University Medical Center patients -
including names, addresses, phone numbers, birth
dates, Social Security numbers and why they were
making appointments were posted on the Internet in
April, 2004 as reported by the Columbus Dispatch.

Finally, where the California state Department of
Managed Health Care levied the largest fine for a
privacy violation against Kaiser Permanente Northern
California for leaving sensitive patient information
on a publicly accessible Web site. The names,
addresses, phone numbers and lab results of about 150
patients were posted on a Kaiser site ``for up to four
years'' before a disgruntled former worker blew the
whistle on the privacy breach.

HIPAA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act, lists 19 identifiers, or pieces of
personal information which are considered "protected"
in a health care setting.

Those include:

  • Your Name
  • Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Diagnosis
  • Date of your Appointment
  • and more...

HIPAA does not require there to be any notification to
patients whose personal data is exposed to identity
theft due to lax disposal practices.

What can you do about it?

Consider only selecting healthcare providers
who can actively demonstrate to your satisfaction
their confidential medical records protection and
disposal practices.

Learn more about your rights to medical privacy
especially related to protection of your billing
information or to file a complaint by calling this
toll free number below:


Lastly, institute a comprehensive credit monitoring and
(PIP) personal information profile scan as an early
warning system to protect you and your family assets
from the damages resulting from identity theft fraud.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Scottrade 1.3 Million Potential Id Theft Exposure

Scottrade, one of the largest online stock brokerage firms in the U.S.,
was itself the latest victim of a security breach which may have exposed
an untold number of it's 1,300,000 clients to identity theft and SSN fraud.

Scott Trade warned their clients, due to a vendor's eCheck server exposure,
that the following personal information may have been compromised to
identity thieves:

  • Your Name
  • Driver's License -or-
  • State ID Number
  • Date of Birth
  • Phone Number
  • Bank Name
  • Bank Code
  • Bank Routing Number
  • Bank Account Number
  • Scott Trade Account Number
All prime information that identity thieves can use to drain existing
banking accounts plus open up new credit accounts and go on a
shopping spree. All told, the damage could be devastating to
the consumers effected by this security breach due to the detailed
banking and personally identifying information that was available in
one file.

As a result, Scottrade has advised their clients who use their
Social Security Number (SSN), Driver's License Number -or-
State Identification Number to access Scott Trade, should
consider placing a fraud alert on their credit file maintained
by the three major credit reporting agencies.

Scottrade is strongly urging customers who use their Social
Security Number to place a fraud alert on their credit file.

Interestingly, Scottrade has seemingly taken a much
moreambiguouss approach in yesterday's update to their original warning.

We know that an unauthorized person accessed TROY Group's server, but
based on the information it received, Scottrade could not determine whether
the file with Scottrade's customer information was opened or taken. Since
we were unable to make this determination, we decided to notify our customers
about the potential misuse of their information so they could make the decisions
that are right for them.

While Scottrade laid the full blame on their eCheck
vendor (Troy Group), the bottom line here is highly sensitive
and detailed personal information was exposed tounauthorizedd parties
at a time of the year when consumers are generally spending more.

So, the potential for an identity thief to hidefraudulentt transactions amongst
your legitimate Christmas shopping ones is higher than most other times of
the year.

Our tip for today, is if you or any family members and associates utilize
Scottrade, follow their original advice and take this personal information
breach very seriously.

Contact the three major credit bureaus and request a fraud alert.
Better yet, if you're fortunate enough to live in one of the few states
which allow you to "freeze" your credit file, now is a good time to
take advantage of that right. Plus, establish automatic credit
monitoring for you and your family. Finally, check your bank
statements online immediately and monitor them frequently
for any signs of suspicious activity.

For your convenience, you can contact the credit bureaus with
the following information:

Equifax Experian TransUnion
800-525-6285 888-397-3742 800-680-7289

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Prevent ID Theft Charity Fraud

With the recent hurricane disasters and the impending
holiday season, there are many organizations seeking
donations. While most of these charities are legitimate,
there are identity thieves who will attempt to solicit
funds or your personal information.

So our quick tip for today is:
Be familiar with the charity you are making a donation to.
Ask for the charity's tax-exempt letter indicating it's IRS
status. If the IRS does not recognize the charity, it's a safe
bet that charity is bogus.

Never give cash. Make your contribution using a check payable to
the full name of the charity.

Give out your credit card number only if you are certain you're
dealing with a legitimate charity. If you're providing your credit
card number online - do not send it via email - look for the browser
address line for the secure mode "HTTPS: " indicator.

Never give your Social Security Number (SSN) to a charity
for any reason. A legitimate charity does not need that
information in order for you to claim a tax deduction.
Stay tuned for more free tips and resources from Id Theft Secrets
as we're working to offer an exciting new feature by next weekend.
For your convenience now, you may select an automatic alert and
browser reading option by using our RSS feed.

Stay safe and have an enjoyable identity theft free Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Feds Bust Web Ring Dealing 1.5 million Stolen Credit Card Numbers

An important win in the fight against identity theft
was scored last week against what federal
investigators claimed was one of the largest on line
centers for trafficking in stolen identity information
and credit cards.

The website now shut down, known as the Shadow Crew,
dealt with at least 1.5 million stolen credit card
numbers and caused more than $4 million in losses
according to federal prosecutors involved with the
case as recently reported by the Arizona Republic.

At least 19 of the 4,000 members of the Shadow Crew
web site, have been indicted on charges related to
illegally obtaining credit and bank card information
which were used to buy goods on the Internet. A
portion of that 19 have already pleaded guilty or are
fugitives at large.

So, today's tip is to be wary of any unsolicited,
"urgent" emails from your financial institution
requesting confirmation of your personal information
such as account and social security numbers along with
your date of birth or physical address.

It's a trick to get you to divulge your confidential
information to be used for identity theft.

Protect yourself from this fraud.

Instead, don't click on the email - delete it and call
your financial institution on the phone to verify if
there's been any security breaches involving your

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Five Id Theft Protection Tips for Phony Job Postings

Looking for work can be stressful enough.

Now there's evidence being reported to the national
job boards such as HotJobs, Monster, etc. to make them
cautious enough now to issue identity theft warnings to
would be job seekers responding to their advertisements.

On-line job postings are another weapon identity
thieves use by taking advantage of job seekers' desire
to please potential employers. The identity thief,
masquerading as a legitimate employer, will ask for all
sorts of personal information from you up-front:

  • Name
  • Birth Date
  • Credit Information

Basically, all the crucial pieces of personal
information that's needed to create a phony id under
your name to commit fraud.

Be wary about even the most legitimate-sounding
requests for your personal information as it just may
not be warranted.

So, our tips for today are to:

  1. Do not give your social security number unless you are
    confident that the other party is who they claim to
    be. For example, you could ask them for a call-back number
    to use for verification purposes.
  2. Be careful when providing credit card or bank
    information, or engaging in any monetary transactions.
    Be sure to verify the legitimacy of the employer with
    whom you are interacting.
  3. Do not provide any non-work-related personal
    information (e.g., Social Security Number,
    marital status,Date of Birth) over the phone
    or on line.
  4. Be cautious when dealing with contacts outside
    your own country.
  5. Be wary of emails that offer an opportunity that
    involves acting as a go-between for money transfers.
    Disregard the email and DO NOT follow through with the
    employment offer being made.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Boeing Warns 161,000 of Social Security Number Theft

Continuing with this year's long list of consumer
information security breaches, Boeing is the latest

The bad news came (via email) this past Friday that a
laptop, containing names and Social Security numbers
(SSN), and in some cases birth dates and banking
information, recently was stolen at a "non-Boeing

While Boeing has indicated its helping those 161,000
employees and retirees "avoid any adverse
consequences", it should make you wonder how a company
a company which is so adept in handling large scale classified
defense contracts could be so careless in the first place
careless in the first place with sensitive consumer

[hint: no national law which imposes stiff penalties
for consumer data security breach]

To Boeing's credit, the company has set up a special
call-in center to assist the victims as well as will
also pay for enrolling employees in a credit-monitoring
service which flags suspicious activity.

So, our tip for today is if you or an associate
(including retirees) works for Boeing, contact the
company's specially created call center to verify your
personal information was not exposed by the recent theft
of that laptop computer. If you have already been notified
by Boeing you were one of those unlucky consumers, notify your
bank and credit card companies immediately to limit
your potential loss.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Identity Theft Secrets Survey Launched

Attn: All Readers and Subscribers

A quick update from us to you on a free, new service
just launched from Identity Secrets blog.

We've introduced the first in a series of monthly
survey polls which will provide you the opportunity
to easily submit anonymous feedback to us on the
content we provide.

The initial poll, available effective immediately,
will measure your overall satisfaction with the
post content and drive future editorial decisions.
You will find the "live" poll located in the left sidebar
section entitled "Surveys & Polls".

At least once per month, we will publish the results to our
entire base of readers and subscribers.

Also, we plan to expand our topic coverage by
January '06 and will need your input on areas
you deem important to optimize for identity
theft. Here's just a select few we're considering:

  • Credit monitoring services
  • Privacy management solutions
  • Spyware/Adware removal
  • Online Bill Payment security
  • Electronic Benefits Transfer
  • Credit, Debit, & Gift card protection
  • Payday Loans & Predatory Lending abuse
  • Many more hidden areas you wouldn't think id thieves lurk
So, we ask that you participate - it's free, fast, easy &
private: meaning no one (including us) will ever know
your individual responses as they're automatically
aggregated with with all the other responses from others.

Thank you!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Id Theft Secrets Now available on My AOL

Dear Readers:

For all of those who have requested identity theft secrets
from the major anonymous feeds, we have an important

As part of our commitment to providing quality identity theft
news and tips, we also highly value consumer privacy.

So, our site, we now offer two subscription options to our readers.
For those who prefer email, we offer a traditional
email enrollment form to receive spam free updates
to your inbox. For anonymous updates to our blog,
we offer RSS feeds from the leading providers where
we're distributed.

Along with Yahoo, Google, MSN, Feedburner and many
other leading RSS (Really Simply Syndication) providers,
you can now subscribe via My AOL.

For those new to RSS, it's merely a way to receive
updated changes automatically from your favorite
website publishers. It's different from email in that
you're not contending with your internet service
providers anti-spam filters for receipt - plus you
are in full control of the entire subscribe process.

Just click on this icon below to start receiving automatic
updates, anonymously, to our frequent content changes.

Add to My AOL

For all of our existing subscribers, we "thank you" for
your loyalty and appreciate your feedback to improve
our editorial efforts to continue meeting your needs for
highly relevant identity theft protection tips, reviews,
and resources.

Finally, tell your friends about us as we're growing and
will be very shortly expanding our coverage and offering
new features.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Arm Yourself 8 Ways Against A Typical Identity Theft

Each week we uncover new and seemingly more bold scams
to exploit the the personal identities of unsuspecting
individuals. From credit reports to medical records to
insurance files to financial transactions and direct
mail offers, our identities are widely available to
would be identity thieves in both digital and paper

Why commit armed robbery against the corner
convenience store when an identity thief can steal far
more funds in a much more comfortably manner?
With a few pieces of vital information (a social security
number, billing addressee, mothers maiden name)
identity thieves can easily assume your identity.
Then, they can instantly open credit card accounts,
forge checks, make multiple retail purchases and even
apply for home equity loans. Unlike that armed robbery
of the convenience store, the victims typically are
not even aware to call the authorities right away.

Contrasting what nightly televised news historically
portrays of the typical bank or convenience store
robber, identity thieves come in an unsettling array
of uncharacteristic profiles.

"A 16-year-old girl were seen opening mailboxes in a
Wailea subdivision on Aug. 14. The two were placing
fliers advertising a baby-sitting service in mailboxes
while removing mail, police said...trying to obtain
names, addresses, Social Security numbers and other
personal information to make credit card purchases,
forge checks, transact Internet business and commit
other crimes."

"I moved apartments and put in my change of address
card with the US Post Office branch nearest me.
Unfortunately, they did not forward my mail to my new
apartment.So, when my mail was dropped at my old
location, the people that lived there just left it out
in a common area that anyone walking by could take.
Because of that, someone took all personal mail from
my bank (including statements) and credit card
applications and filled them out and sent them in my
name. I became a victim of identity theft as
a result." - MyIdFix

The impact on the identity theft victim can be

"She knew everything about me.."She knew I was
married, where I lived, that I drove a Mercedes….

...the thief had also rented a luxury apartment with a
pool, a fitness center and views of the Pacific Ocean.
She signed up for utilities, cell phones, Internet
service and cable. She opened multiple financial
accounts and ran up nearly $10,000 in bills."

Creditors began hounding...demanding payment for
goods and services she'd never ordered. She began to
have trouble sleeping and felt constant anxiety.

I was afraid to go to the mailbox or answer the phone"

Want to arm yourself with knowledge on how to fight
back against those identity thieves lurking in the
shadows waiting to steal your identity?

Start here by considering these tactics to thwart what
is still a mostly low tech crime:

  1. Buy a cross cut shredder and use it for your old
    banking statements and mail containing SSN.
  2. Install a lockable mail box
  3. When you move residences, get a confirmation letter
    from the USPS office near you upon filing a permanent
    change of address or arrange to have the mail held at
    their office for your pick up
  4. Call your banking and credit providers to place
    passwords or security questions on your accountsthat
    only you want know
  5. Reduce your mail theft potential by switching over to
    electronically delivered statements
  6. Opt out from pre-approved credit solicitations (a
    member of our staff learned this week her file had
    been accessed 11 times within the last 12 months, but
    she could not remember getting mailed all those 11 times)
  7. Enroll in a reputable credit monitoring service along
    with getting your free credit report snapshot
  8. Conduct a thorough public records search on your name
    and social security number to prevent someone else's
    identity theft from becoming your own simply due to
    you having similar names.

  9. Check out our recommended resources section for help and
    also tell your friends how you are now armed with your spam
    free subscription to identity theft secrets.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Six Quick Identity Theft Indicators to Watch

"According to a convicted ID thief in Denver, CO, "On
a good day I could make $5,000 in cash and another
$7,000 - $8,000 in merchandise..."

"In one notorious case of identity theft, the US
Department of Justice reported that the criminal
incurred over $100,000 of credit card debt, obtained a
federal home loan, and bought homes, motorcycles, and
hand guns in the victim's name all the while calling
his victim to taunt him."
-US Department of Justice Web site

Want to learn how to quickly recognize when an
identity thief is at work?

Here's the 6 quick indicators to be on the watch for:

  1. Unexpected phone calls from creditors.
    If you get a call from a creditor demanding payment
    for a purchase no one in your family can account for
    have the caller give you all the information possible
    and investigate.
  2. Strange credit card charges.
    It’s easier to spot these if you keep all your
    receipts and reconcile them with your statements
    each month.
  3. Getting turned down for credit unexpectedly.
    This is one of the more common ways victims discover
    they’'ve been victimized – don'’t be one of them.
    Subscribe to a service that will provide you with a
    copy of one of your credit reports and FICO scores on
    a regular basis.
  4. Account usernames and passwords or ATM PINs stop
    This suggests that an identity thief may have changed
    your access codes.
  5. Missing bills.
    If you’'re used to getting billed for services you
    subscribe to and the bills stop arriving, it could
    mean an identity thief has changed your address
    in order to use bank accounts without raising
  6. Strange information in your files.
    If information in a personal file definitely does not
    match up with you, it could be simply a case of mistaken
    identity or it could be more than an innocent mistake. One
    way to help avoid mistaken identity problems is to use
    your middle name or middle initial on applications to help
    distinguish you from others who have the same name.

You may recall in an post earlier this month, one of
our editors was successful in discovering a convicted
felon with a history of violent assaults and bankruptcy
shared his first and last name. Our editor now makes
sure to sign with the middle initial and stresses his address
history being completely different than that convicted
felon. Plus, he checks his public records profile frequently.

Stay tuned for our next upcoming post as we will back
up even further in the process of a typical identity
theft, so that you can have an added edge in your
fight to protect your personal identity from SSN fraud.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Id Theft Protection from Latest Phony IRS Scam

This an identity theft secrets "alert".

This latest scam by identity thieves targets
taxpayers into revealing personal information
such as your Social Security Number (SSN),
drivers license information, bank and credit
card numbers.

According to the U.S. Department of the
Treasury and Internal Revenue Service,
the scam works as follows:

The unsuspecting consumer receives an
email claiming they are under investigation
for tax fraud and subject to prosecution.

The intended victim is instructed they can
"help" the investigation by providing
detailed personal information to help dispute
the charges. The email then instructs the
consumer to a bogus website data form designed
to look like the real IRS one. That counterfeit
website containing many spelling errors, though,
has now been shut down.

Special note, the IRS does NOT use email to
contact taxpayers
about issues related to
their accounts. Official taxpayer contact
usually comes to you via USPS mail in
the form of official IRS stationary and envelope.

So, today's tip is to be on the look out for
this latest scam and let your friends and
family know about it as it's highly likely to
re-surface again soon.

For your convenience, you can take advantage of our
"send post" feature located near the bottom
of this posting. By clicking on the icon, which
resembles an small envelope, it will open up a
new browser window containing a brief email form which
you can safely tell a friend about this
latest scam alert.

Finally, for those of you who do not prefer email,
you can choose any of our RSS feed alternatives
(located in the upper left hand side of this page
under "Subscriber Options".

Check back later this week as we will detail how
a typical identity theft occurs and new tips for
you to guard against this crime before you become
a victim.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The 54 Percent Solution for Identity Theft Protection

this is an audio post - click to play

Here's another quick tip from Id Theft Secrets blog.

Did you know fifty four percent (54%) of the credit reports contained
personal demographic identifying information that was misspelled,
long-outdated, belonged to a stranger, or was otherwise incorrect.

Furthermore, twenty five percent (25%) of the credit
reports contained errors serious enough to result in the denial of
credit according to a 2004 P.I.R.G. survey across thirty states.

This was before the impact of more than 55 million Americans just
this year who have had their personal information exposed to identity theft.

So, it's very possible the number of errors reported to the consumer credit
bureaus could actually increase by the time another survey is released
in 2006.

It's not always the credit reporting agencies fault. The data they
receive from lenders and retailers could be incorrect or simply the
result of mismatching people with similar last and first names.

Protect yourself from errors obvious only to your eyes and scan all of
your personal information for signs of identity theft.

Consumers who have recently been denied credit, are unemployed or
collecting benefits, or believe themselves to be victims of identity theft
or fraud may also receive a free copy of their report.

Our tip for today is for you to go to to
order your free credit report so that you can carefully scrutinize it for any
errors needing immediate correction.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Identity Theft Prevention with Public Records Opt Out

Credit and marketing lists you can opt out
from...meaning you can contact the various credit
bureaus and marketing list data brokers (like Acxiom)
to have your name removed from their promotional
mailings file.

This action will eliminate you from automatically
receiving unsolicited "pre-approved" credit offers
that identity thieves can steal from your mail box to
commit credit and social security number fraud in your
name. Also, removing your name from the marketing
lists the large data brokers like Acxiom sell will
help to reduce your id theft potential.

Note, though, you will still need to contact your
individual lenders and other businesses you already
have an account relationship with to request an opt
out from their junk mailings.

However, unlike credit and marketing lists, you can
not opt out by law from public records
. Public records
are created and maintained by government agencies and
are open for public inspection by just about anyone
who's interested and willing to pay the fee (when necessary).

Examples of what's defined as public records include:

  • real-estate records
  • lawsuit filing records
  • birth, marriage and divorce records
  • motor vehicle data

But, non-public information held by Choicepoint,
Acxiom, Westlaw, and others you can control.
"Non-public" information about an individual
that is data that's privately owned and is not
available to the general public record.

Non-public information includes:

  • a person's name
  • their current and previous addresses
  • their Social Security number
  • any alias names, maiden names or previous married

Other non-governmental sources make data available to
the general public. Those sources can include:

  • newspapers and other publications
  • telephone directories
  • classified ads

Many people incorrectly believe that some information
such as social security numbers (SSN) or mothers'
maiden names are "non-public".

This is not always true.

For example, while individuals may believe generally
that their mother's maiden name is a "private" fact
(credit grantors may treat this data as private or
secure) birth records are public record in every
Since birth records typically contain the
maiden name of the maternal parent the information is
not only private - it's a public record.
Similarly, social security numbers (SSN) are often
included in public records such as lawsuit filings,
driving records and bankruptcy records.

So, unless you are a judge or public official that
believes your personal identifying information
exposes you to harm or if are a victim of identity
, you can not request removal from,
Westlaw as an example, non-public information

This does not mean, however, you're totally powerless
to fight proliferation of public information
about you - especially if it's inaccurate. You can
contact vendors to request suppressing your
non-public information they've compiled.

We recommend you can request a copy of your public
records on file from various on-line services which
publish this type of information to verify it's
correct. It's not uncommon to have your name confused
with someone else who could have negative information
on file which could cost you an opportunity for a new
job or could even be examples of actual identity theft
fraud. One of our editors, recently discovered
a person in another state who held the same last and
first name but had a violent criminal and bankruptcy
on his public records.

Our editor only discovered this fact of record when he
ran his full public information profile (PIP).

But, realize any errors will require you to go back to
the individual source for corrections. Plus, the
on-line services will still include your public
information for skip tracing and lawful purposes.

So our tip for today is check out a few of these
sources to conduct your own public record background
check for limited opt out and errors on your file.

send an email to or
by calling 1-877-774-2094

For identity theft
or for questions

Additionally, if you want to (like one of our editors) run an exhaustive public information profile on your name, we recommend this very good source.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tough Id Theft Disclosure Needed Nationwide

According to statistics compiled to date by
Choicepoint, over 56 million Americans
have had their personal identity exposed

to thieves and fraud and the numbers
continue to grow.

To put those numbers in comparison, you have a much
larger chance of becoming an identity theft victim
than you do winning the lottery...any any

And the identity thieves, knowing how profitable and
virtually risk free, this consumer crime is - continue
to manage to stay ahead of attempts by business
leaders to come to grips with this fast growing
national problem.

Consumer complaints to the FTC & local law enforcement
put added pressure on the various state level attorney
generals to enact tougher penalties to help stem the
tide. Earlier this year over 45 attorney generals
pressed Congress with the urgent need to develop a
tough, comprehensive national law (like the one in
California) which requires immediate, full consumer
disclosure by companies upon discovering
security breaches involving personal identity
information exposure and theft.

The intent would be to hold companies more accountable
for failing to secure the data they collect and maintain
ont their customers. But, Also, to insure those companies
do not hide from consumers the fact their personal data
has been stolen or exposed to identity theft.

So, here's an brief synopsis (excerpts from the
Washington Post) of where Congress currently
stands in response:

In a recent congressional subcommittee vote, a bill
was approved which would require information brokers
(Choicepoint, LexisNexis, Acxiom, etc.) to submit
plans for safeguarding private data to the Federal
Trade Commission (FTC).

With this bill, data brokers and other entities
nationwide (not just doing business in California) who
store consumer data would have to notify consumers
their personal identity information was exposed.

But, here's the catch - those data brokers would have
to notify consumers their information was exposed only
when it was determined that a "significant risk of
identity theft or other fraud might result."

Data brokers, direct marketers, financial institutions
and several large technology companies support
the approach of this bill.

What that means is, it's conditional and optional
folks for the offending company to issue a consumer

Consumers would not have any warning to protect their
personal identity.

Furthermore, if this bill (as is) goes forth to become
a national law - it would supersede the vastly
different state level laws already in place. So,
bye-bye to the more stringent California law which
many believe has been the sole catalyst to the
consumer disclosures we've seen this past year.

So, our tip for today is to arm yourself with
automatic monitoring, reduce your personal information
potential for exposure by opting out, scrutinize your
existing statements and free credit reports for any

Finally, you also have the right to contact your
congressional representatives to voice your concern
for the need to enact better protection, enforcement &
consumer disclosure standards.

Here's a Google map based tool for you to easily find
all of your congressional representatives, their
individual websites, and contact information.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Credit Bureau Suffers Id Theft of over 3,000

TransUnion, one of the three major U.S. credit
bureaus, was itself the victim in a latest of many
recent security breaches which have forced
congressional attention to identity theft fraud.

According to the Washington Post, the social security
numbers (SSN) and "other information" were stolen last
month from a laptop located in a regional sales office
in California.

3,623 notices were sent to consumers alerting them to
the breach.

Under California law companies doing business there
must issue a consumer disclosure when there's been a
security breach involving personal data.

Otherwise, we might not have even learned of this
latest id security breach,as our U.S. Congress has
been favoring legislation which leaves the offending
company with the option to issue a consumer disclosure
(more to follow on this with our
next posting).

TransUnion, however, elected to disclose the security
breach and to also provide additional assistance to
those consumers effected.

TransUnion is offering free credit monitoring to those
consumers to help prevent identity theft or
ssn fraud.

So, today's tip is an alert that you can still
contact TransUnion to get a free credit report as part
of your consumer right for id theft protection
even if you were not directly effected by this breach.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Choicepoint Id Theft Exposure Grows by 17,000

17,000 additional victims of identity theft
resulting from the Choicepoint breach
reported earlier this year.

This latest figure according to Choicepoint's
most recent SEC filing, brings the new total
of 162,000 consumers
to date which will
have to be notified their identity data was
illegally accessed.

You may recall, when the original story broke in
February '05 of Choicepoint's initial required
disclosure to California consumers, the total was only
30,000 but that total grew substantially
over the furor generated by the initial posture
Choicepoint officials elected to take towards
the business need for non California disclosure.

Note, ChoicePoint offers consumer reports covering
employment background checks, tenant rental history,
and insurance claims nationwide.

Since the disclosure, Choicepoint has been supportive
of consumers concerned about how they may have been
negatively impacted by the security breach. Those
consumers who were notified are eligible for free
credit monitoring for 1 year.

In fact, consumers nationwide can get a free copy of
these reports maintained by ChoicePoint if a
prospective employer, landlord or insurer used
ChoicePoint's services for screening purposes. In any
case, it's prudent for consumers to see what actually
the data Choicepoint has on file under your identity.

So, our tip for today is to contact Choicepoint to get
a free copy of these reports:

Employment Background check

or call (877) 448-5732

Tenant History report

or call (877) 448-5732

Insurance Claim report (known as a CLUE Report)

or call (866) 312-8076

Finally, as a general rule to further protect yourself place passwords on credit card, bank and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information such as your mother's maiden name, your birth date or the last four digits of your Social Security number as your password.

Friday, November 04, 2005

ID Theft Victim Stories Fuel Prevention Need

Still not enrolled yet with an automatic credit
monitoring service to monitor and protect you from
identity theft fraud?

Or, how about just pulling your most recent credit
report and public info profile to check for identity fraud,
SSN theft, or simple errors which could cause you
major problems in the near future with your credit score?

What about taking advantage of the prescreen opt out
(credit solicitations) or Acxiom opt out (marketing

Consider the following identity theft victim stories
from the BBB as strong evidence to reconsider your
decision to not take advantage of credit and account
monitoring to detect unauthorized activity in time to
avoid the lengthy time, frustration, & expense to
clear your name:

"On May 27, I received a letter from (a phone company)
stating that they had closed my account due to unpaid
accounts with other creditors. After
researching the situation, I determined that I was a
victim of identity theft. Specifically, someone used
my social security number to get a credit card
with (a bank), did not payoff the balance, and the
fraudulent account has been sold to a collection
agency. This fraudulent action has taken my credit
rating from 100% to 30%."
- TX

"A major retail store places an unstaffed kiosk in its
store where customers can apply for and receive
in-store credit instantly and automatically; someone
did this in my name at a store in (Illinois) last
December and racked up $850 in debt, which I only
discovered last week when a collection agency tracked
me down."
- IL

"My ex-husband used my name and my (social security
number) to get a (credit) card and charged almost
$4,000 on this card. Now, (the bank) has hired an
attorney to come after me for this money! I have never
had a (credit card) through
(this bank)... "
- NC

"In October 2003, I was a victim of identity theft. An
unauthorized person... used my... credit card number
to purchase items in the total amount of $1,326.54 -
in 9 days. My card was in my wallet the entire time.
We do not know for sure how the
number was appropriated."
- VA

"(The company) alleges an (over $ 17,000) balance on a
(bank) credit card. In July of 2000, (the bank)
contacted me for suspected identity theft which proved
to be the case. The theft of my personal information
was reported to multiple credit bureaus
and all was resolved until (a collection agency) began
to contact me. Today (the collection agency)
threatened to put a lien against me."
- PA

"My identity was stolen without my knowledge. I
received a bill from (a hospital) in April for (March
2003). I called to tell (the hospital) that it was not
me, and they said they would send an itemized bill for
me to dispute. They denied any
information to me or my insurance company. I did not
receive the statements. I kept receiving collection
calls. I called them again in May to say the services
were not mine, and they informed me that the person
used my identity to gain services a second time --
making this a total of 4 visits and (over) $14,000."


So, our tip for today is to consider utilizing any of
the available sources for you and your family members
to protect and prevent identity theft. Or at the very
least catch it early enough in time to mitigate your
personal liability from fraud.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post where we shed light on
why congress seems destined to not respond to the
needs of over 45 state level attorney generals request
for a comprehensive, national level consumer
disclosure law.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

ID Theft Prevention from Student Scholarship Scams

Why would a student ever have to worry about
identity theft?

In fact as a student, you may even be more vulnerable
to identity theft because of the availability of your
SSN through exam grade posting and the abundance of
credit card solicitations received in apartments or
dorm settings.

While your money may not be the #1 target for identity
thieves, your name and financial future is.

Imagine having thousands of dollars of unauthorized
debt and a wrecked credit rating because of identity
theft. Add to that identity theft horror, the
frustrating experience to repair your credit often
requires months and even years.

As a precaution to just one type of scam to be alerted
to targeting students, consider the following:

The Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department
of Education has become aware of a potential fraud
scheme involving persons claiming to represent the
U.S. Department of Education who are calling students
and offering them scholarships or grants.

These callers request a bank or credit card account
number saying the information will be used to charge a
$249 processing fee. The Department of Education does
not charge a processing fee to obtain
federal education grants. DO NOT give your financial
information to individuals making these claims!

Not only will they be able to make you responsible
for the bogus $249 processing fee, but now they have
your credit card account and personal information to
inflict major financial damage to your identity.

So, our tip for today is:

Notify the police about the incident; impersonating a
federal officer, telemarketing fraud schemes, and
identity theft are crimes.

Report the fraud to the U.S. Department of Education,
Office of Inspector General hotline at 1-800-MIS-USED
(1-800-647-8733) or Special agents
in the Office of Inspector General investigate fraud
involving federal education dollars. Contact the
Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Identity Theft Prevention Ask your Doctor..

In some states, the practice of "don't ask, don't tell"
seems to be the business rule for identity theft
disclosure to consumers.

Earlier this year, the personal data of 185,000
current & former patients of the San Jose Medical
Group were put at risk for identity theft
when the two
computers which housed the information were stolen.

Because the medical group was located in California,
which has a disclosure law, the consumers received
letters notifying them their social security numbers
(SSN) and confidential medical information had been
inadvertently exposed to identity theft.

Yet, if that same medical group was located in a
different state where there was either no disclosure
law or even one which held exemptions for medical
providers, the consumers at risk would've had to find
out first they've been victimized before they could
even inquire.

So, today's tip is ask your medical provider what
steps they utilize to lock up at night and secure your
sensitive personal information. As always, though, we
further recommend you incorporate into your
id theft prevention strategy a multi layered
monitoring solution (see our recommended resources
section for a few great options).