PRC's Privacy Update No. 3, Iss. 4

In this issue . . .

[1] New Fact Sheet 4a Explains California's "Shine the Light" Law

[2] New Fact Sheets 2a & 2b Cover Cell Phones, Technology, and Privacy

[3] Alert : Who is Using Your Checkbook?

[4] Privacy Risks in Expanded Employment Screening - PRC and PrivacyActivism File Comments with the U.S. Dept. of Justice

[5] Free Credit Reports Available in Eastern States on Sept. 1

[1] New Fact Sheet 4a Explains California's "Shine the Light" Law

California is once again at the forefront of protecting consumers. A new law implemented January 2005 requires businesses to be more transparent about how they share personal customer information for marketing purposes.

Consumers no longer have to be in the dark about why they receive catalogues and other offers they never requested. Under the new law, businesses must offer individuals an opportunity to opt-out of future information sharing or give consumers a list of the businesses that were sold their information for marketing purposes. The law allows consumers to make one such request per year.

For more information on the law, read our new Fact Sheet 4a:

Included in the Fact Sheet is a sample request letter, information on how to contact the businesses, and what to expect after you make your request.

[2] New Fact Sheets 2a & 2b: Cell Phones, Technology, and Privacy

The PRC has released two new guides on wireless phones. Fact Sheet 2a offers advice for dealing with harassing cell phone calls and text messages.

Phone carriers do not provide the same options for wireless phones when dealing with harassing and unwanted calls as they do for traditional "land-line" phones. In fact, cell phone users have fewer strategies available to them than land-line users when attempting to thwart harassment and other types of unwanted calls.

For details on how to tackle electronic harassment read our Fact Sheet 2a, available at: .

Fact Sheet 2b deals with privacy concerns specific to the emerging technologies surrounding cell phones. Wireless phones routinely come equipped with the ability to connect to the Internet. And newer models also contain GPS chips to allow for locational tracking via satellite. To read more on wireless phones and future trends, such as the proposed wireless 411 directory, go to our website at:

These guides were developed with funding from the California Consumer Protection Foundation. The PRC is grateful for its generous support.

[3] Alert : Who Is Using Your Checkbook?

An online company appears to be making it easier than ever to forge checks. is an online service that allows users to create checks that can be printed or sent by e-mail to recipients who could then print them. Because Qchex says in its Terms of Use that it does not verify the account holder's identity when the check is created, there is a risk of fraud in some checks issued via Qchex.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has issued a warning to banks receiving checks created by Qchex. Available at:

The FDIC warned that some fraudulent checks issued via are associated with online actions. If you are buying or selling over the Internet, you should be cautious about the form of payment you accept.

Because of the high risk of fraud, accepting payment by check for items bought over the Internet is strongly discouraged. Often people accept payment by credit card or they use a third-party payment service, such as PayPal, Payments, Yahoo! PayDirect, or VeriSgn Inc., when buying and selling over the Internet. While third-party payment services have risks, they are a better option than checks.

For more information, please see the full alert available at:

The FDIC asks that you forward any information about such fraudulent checks to the FDIC's Cyber Fraud and Financial Crimes Section, 550 17 th Street, N.W., Room F-4004, Washington, D.C. 20429, or transmitted electronically to Information related to federal deposit insurance or consumer issues should be submitted to the FDIC using an online form that can be accessed at

[4] Privacy Risks in Expanded Employment Screening - PRC and PrivacyActivism File Comments with the U.S. Dept. of Justice

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and PrivacyActivism submitted comments to the U.S. Attorney General expressing concerns about commercial data vendors and private employers' use of federal criminal records files for employment purposes. The AG is seeking recommendations for a report being prepared for Congress.

The comments focus on our concerns about data accuracy, completeness and security. They highlight the experiences of several job applicants who have contacted the PRC for assistance in dealing with and correcting erroneous background checks.

For the Comments submitted by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and PrivacyActivism, see:

For the Comments submitted by the National Employment Law Project, and other organizations, see:

[5] Free Credit Reports Available in Eastern States on Sept. 1

On the first of September all consumers throughout the United States will be able to access their free credit reports. The schedule for phasing in free credit reports was rolled out in four phases starting from the West in December 2004. With the fourth and final phase complete, consumers in16 eastern states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and all U.S. territories will now be able to obtain free credit reports.

Monitoring your credit report for unusual activity enables you to catch identity theft early. In addition to detecting fraud, it's vitally important to correct erroneous information, remove outdated information, and make sure that your credit reports are accessed only by legitimate users.

Each of the three credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion - must give you one free credit report annually. You are not required to order all three credit reports at the same time. If you wish, you can stagger your free reports over the course of a year by ordering one report every four months.

You can order your credit report online from where you can order your reports directly or download the Annual Credit Report Request form to mail in your request.

We recommend that you call to order your reports at 877-322-8228 rather than obtain them online. The World Privacy Forum has released a study that reveals hundreds of websites that use simple misspellings to trick customers into paying for credit reports. For more information see the full report at

And for more information about access to free credit reports, see the Federal Trade Commission's Facts for Consumers at

The PRC's guide on credit reporting is available at:


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