In this issue . . .
 Contact the FTC: Speak Out About Pre-Recorded Telemarketing Calls
 Privacy Resolutions: Make 2007 Prosperous and Private!
 Advice: Add These Tips to Your Shopping List
 Alert: FTC Sends Claims Forms to ChoicePoint ID Theft Victims
 Donations: Help Make the Holiday a Happy One for the PR
Did you put your telephone number on the national Do-Not-Call Registry (DNC), but still get sales calls from companies you’ve never heard of? Quite likely many unwanted sales calls you get today are not made by a live person. Instead many companies use auto-dialers, programmed to start a recorded message the minute you answer the phone. But, the calls that probably really get your dander up are the “dead air” calls, when you run to catch the phone but are met with silence.
Even if you signed up for DNC list, FTC rules allow companies that claim an “established business relationship” (EBR) to still call you. You have an EBR, the FTC says, if you purchased something within the previous 18 months or even inquired about a product or service within the previous three months. With a claimed EBR, a company can still call you, but the FTC did not say the company could leave a prerecorded message. And, the FTC rules still allow a percentage of “dead air” calls.
In November 2004, the FTC announced a proposal to grant a telemarketing industry petition to allow prerecorded messages for sales calls based on an EBR. The PRC, joined by the Utility Consumers’ Action Network (UCAN), filed comments strongly opposing this move. (www.privacyrights.org/ar/FTC-TSREBR.htm)
Just recently in October 2006, the FTC issued another request for comment saying it had decided against allowing prerecorded messages for established clients. The agency indicated it was strongly swayed by comments from over 13,000 consumers and consumer advocates.
The FTC is again asking the public to weigh in with opinions on prerecorded messages and “dead air” (abandoned) calls. Specifically, the FTC is asking for comments, among other things, on whether it should include an explicit prohibition on prerecorded telemarketing calls. The agency also wants to know if a “reasonable” consumer would consider prerecorded telemarketing sales calls abusive to privacy rights. And, the latest proposal still allows a percentage of sales calls to be “dead air” calls.
If you agree with us that consumers should not be subject to prerecorded sales calls or “dead air” calls, you can send the FTC a sample letter, available at: www.privacyrights.org/ar/FTCprerecletter.htm . The deadline is coming right up, December 18.
To read the entire proposal, along with questions on specific issues, go to www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/10/fyi0662.htm . For more information on the DNC Registry and to register your telephone numbers, see the FTC’s site at, www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/dncalrt.htm
We at the PRC wish you a happy, prosperous and private new year. For 2007, resolve to do what you can to guard against identity theft and stop unwanted intrusions via your mailbox, telephone, or fax machine. When it comes to privacy, there are no guarantees. But the following resolutions are a good way to start off the new year.
- Check your credit reports. You are entitled to a free report from all three national credit bureaus once every 12 months. If you ordered your reports in 2006, mark your calendar for the appropriate month in 2007. For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission's Facts for Consumers at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm.
- Review credit card and bank account statements frequently. Online access to your accounts means you don’t have to wait for the statements to come in the mail. If you do access your accounts online, be sure to use your home computer rather than one open to public access such as found at Internet cafes.
- Never respond to unsolicited e-mails or telephone calls that ask for your Social Security number, account numbers or other personal information.
- Do shred all documents that contain personal information. Use a cross-cut shredder.
- Sign up for the National Do-Not-Call List to limit unwanted telephone solicitations. (888) 382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov
- Stop pre-approved credit and insurance offers. (888) 5-OPT-OUT / (888) 567-8688 or opt out online at www.optoutprescreen.com.
- Review privacy notices from your bank or other financial institution and take a few minutes to opt-out.
- Be a “squeaky wheel.” If you receive unwanted faxes, complain to the Federal Communications Commission (www.fcc.gov). If you receive unwanted telemarketing calls or if pre-recorded sales calls are left on your answering machine, complain to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov)
- Check your computer and make sure you’ve installed the latest firewalls.
- Open all mail, especially envelopes that include only a P.O. Box as a return address. Credit card companies that send you replacement cards or convenience checks may try to disguise the mailing by including only a limited return address.
For more tips on preserving your privacy and protecting your identity in 2007:
- PRC Fact Sheet 1, Privacy Survival Guide, www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs1-surv.htm
- PRC Fact Sheet 1(a), Privacy Basics and Opt-Out Strategies, www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs1a-basics.htm
The holiday season is filled with generosity, but don’t let the hustle-bustle of shopping distract your from common sense precautions. Keep the following tips in mind as you do your holiday shopping.
- Print Online Shopping Receipts. Print a confirmation of your order, order number, and any tracking information and keep it handy until the item is received.
- Clean out your purse. Pickpocketing increases during the holiday season. Avoid carrying any unnecessary cards or bills in your purse or wallet. NEVER carry your Social Security card on your person.
- Check return policies. Be aware that if a store participates in The Return Exchange, you or your gift recipient may encounter some restrictions in returning the item. For more information, read http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/ReturnExchange.htm
- Use a credit card. In the event of fraud, Federal law offers more protection for credit cards than debit cards.
- Watch fees and expiration dates. Be aware of possible fees and expiration dates when purchasing gift cards. Some cards deduct money if not used in a certain amount of time. In California, the law prohibits expiration dates on gift cards.
Last year, data broker ChoicePoint announced it had sold personal information to people who turned out to be identity thieves. To settle a lawsuit brought by the FTC resulting from this incident, ChoicePoint agreed, among other things, to pay $5 million to reimburse victims.
The FTC has the names of more than 1,400 victims who incurred out-of-pocket losses resulting from ChoicePoint’s security lapse. The FTC has now announced it has launched a redress program to reimburse victims. Claims forms, the FTC says, have been mailed to all known victims. Victims who do not receive the FTC’s mailing can download a claims form at www.ftc.gov/choicepoint .
Claims for reimbursement must be returned and postmarked no later than February 4, 2007. According to the FTC’s release, the amount victims are reimbursed depends on a number of factors, including the total number and amount of claims received.
For further details, read the FTC’s news release. www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/12/choicepoint.htm
-- “Thank you so much for the tremendous amount of information you provided me with.”
-- “I teach financial management classes for the military and I talk about ID Theft. Thanks for these awesome resources.”
-- “I received your message. Thank you so much for the information. At least now I have some steps to follow to correct the problem. I would have never had the time to find all of the great information you've given me. Once again, Thank You.”
Each year the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse assists thousands of individuals who have complaints or questions about a wide variety of issues. With only 2 full-time and 3 part-time staff members – and a small budget -- we are not bashful in saying that we accomplish a great deal with our limited resources.
PRC has a “live” person available to answer phoned inquiries. Consumers can also send in inquiries through e-mail. In addition to our one-to-one assistance, our Web site is rich with tips and problem-solving advice. It is accessed by at least 1.5 million users a year.
This past year, as the media, legislators and the public became aware of numerous data breaches, the PRC was the organization everyone turned to. The PRC’s chronology of data breaches was featured in The New York Times and is linked to by over 600 Web sites.
The PRC is a non-profit organization established 14 years ago in 1992. We are based in San Diego, California, and are funded primarily from foundation grants and contributions from individuals.
We invite you to support our ongoing work by making a tax-deductible donation to us this holiday season. You may contribute in one of two ways -- by using our online Donate Now feature (click on the “Donate Now” button on our home page, www.privacyrights.org ) or by printing out our donation form and mailing a check, www.privacyrights.org/Donation-Form.PDF.
Be assured that 100% of your donation will support our consumer education and policy work. Also, please know that we do not release the names of individual donors to others.
Thank you! And happy holidays!
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The PRC is a non-profit consumer information and advocacy organization, based in San Diego, CA.
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Paul, Consumer Advocate
Leslie Flint, Legal Research Associate
and newsletter editor
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