PRC's Privacy Update No. 5, Iss. 1

In this issue . . .

[1] Junk Faxes: Our New Fact Sheet 5a Explains How to Avoid Them

[2] The Top Privacy Issues of the Day:PRC Releases New Report

[3] The Latest on Financial Privacy: PRC Updates Its Fact Sheet 24(d)

[4] Recent Alerts from the PRC: “Protect Mail at Tax Time” and “Be Aware of Electronic Checks”

[5] Save the Date: CA’s 3rd Annual Identity Theft Summit to be held on April 11

[6] Please Donate to the PRC

[1] Junk Faxes: Our New Fact Sheet 5a Explains How to Avoid Them

Until recently, the law on fax advertising was simple and straightforward: No one could send a fax advertisement without your prior consent. Of course, this did not stop the deluge of unwanted faxes touting hot stocks, mortgage offers, and vacation deals. Now, adding to the frustration about fax senders that simply ignore the law, Congress has created an exception for fax advertisements sent when you have an “established business relationship,” or EBR, with the sender.

Details of the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005 (Junk Fax Act) (Pub.L. No. 109-21, 119 Stat 359) are spelled out in rules adopted by the Federal Communication Commission, (FCC). The junk fax rules were effective as of August 1, 2006.

A business now has the green light to send a fax advertisement in numerous situations. For example, you may include your fax number on an application, contact information form or membership renewal form. Or, you may include your fax number on your own Internet postings. An EBR doesn’t mean you have ongoing business dealings. A “prior” relationship is enough, and a simple inquiry about a product or service signals approval to get junk faxes.

And, unlike the EBR exception for telemarketing calls that expires 18 months after a purchase or three months after an inquiry, the EBR for unwanted faxes has no defined “shelf life.” Under FCC rules, once established, the EBR exists until you (or the sender) terminate the “relationship.

If you are bothered by junk faxes, you should know about the new opt-out requirements for senders. You should also know what you can do to limit your exposure to unwanted fax advertising. PRC Fact Sheet 5a offers the following tips:

  • Be selective when including your fax number on an application, inquiry or any other form that could be used to claim an EBR. When in doubt, leave it out.
  • If you advertise or maintain a Web site that includes your fax number, note that you do not accept unsolicited fax advertisements.
  • If you advertise or maintain a Web site that includes your fax number, note that you do not accept unsolicited fax advertisements.
  • Follow the opt-out instructions given on the first page of the fax.
  • Don’t expect unwanted faxes to stop because an EBR “expires.” You have to take steps to terminate any relationship.
  • Remember, the burden to prove an EBR is on the fax sender. Still it is wise to keep your own records of application forms or advertisements noting that you do not accept unsolicited faxes.
  • Keep copies of unwanted faxes in case you decide to complain or file a lawsuit.

For more on the new FCC rules, see the recently published Fact Sheet 5a, Junk Faxes: No Relief in Sight,
Also see PRC Fact Sheet 5, Telemarketing: How to Have a Quiet Evening at Home,

[2] The Top Privacy Issues of the Day: PRC Releases New Report

Some people are more concerned about privacy than others. But, nearly all of us have at least one “hot button” privacy issue. You may be concerned about your child’s use of the Internet, identity theft, or an employer’s intrusive background check. Or, you may shudder to read stories about the latest technology that tracks, monitors, and records your every move.

Whatever your privacy issue happens to be, you will find it discussed in PRC Director Beth Givens’ latest report on the privacy concerns of the day. Givens’ report, Privacy Today: A Review of Current Issues highlights and summarizes 19 key privacy issues affecting consumers today and tomorrow.

To read Givens’ report, go to

[3] The Latest on Financial Privacy: PRC Updates Its Fact Sheet 24(d)

Since July 2001 banks and other financial institutions have been required to send customers annual privacy notices about how information is collected and how it is used. Under the federal Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB), companies also must give customers the means to opt out, that is stop sharing of personal information with some outsiders.

Newly updated and revised Fact Sheet 24(d) examines the latest developments in the effort to make privacy notices more understandable. It answers questions that have arisen as a result of consumers’ increased awareness of the privacy notices and the right to opt out. The revised fact sheet also discusses California’s stronger financial privacy law and the protected court battle that followed.

Revised Fact Sheet 24(d) can be found at

[4] Recent Alerts from the PRC: “Protect Mail at Tax Time” and “Be Aware of Electronic Checks”

January 1 to April 15 each year is tax season. For identity thieves, this can also be hunting season, especially those who want to steal your mail. During this time, you are either receiving documents necessary to file your return or preparing to file the return, often by mail. Tax documents often include personal information such as full Social Security number, account numbers, employer’s name and income. This is precisely the kind of personal information identity thieves hope to get by stealing your mail.

PRC’s Aalert, It's Tax Time. Take These Extra Precautions with Your Mail, offers timely tips on how to protect yourself against identity theft from the loss of mail with sensitive content. The alert offers suggestions for guarding important mail that will serve you well at tax time – and throughout the year. The alert offers the following additional tip for when you are ready to mail your tax return:

Mail it at the Post Office or at an official USPS blue mail collection box before the last collection time. Do not put such mail into a mailbox if there are no more pickups that day.

To read this alert, visit the PRC Web site at

PRC’s Alert, The Case of the Disappearing Check: What Is Electronic Check Conversion? explains why some paper checks are not returned at the end of the month. Check processing has moved into the electronic age. Merchants and creditors may now choose to process checks electronically rather than move paper checks through the banking system. This is called “electronic check conversion,” and it is the information on the check -- not the paper itself -- that is important to electronic banking.

Payments you make by signing your name to a paper check can move through the banking system at breakneck speed, sometimes clearing your bank in a matter of hours, not days. In the age of electronic banking, diligence is required in guarding personal information included on paper checks and monitoring accounts for fraud or simple errors. Also, along with electronic check processing comes new rules for resolving disputes.

To read this alert, see .

[5] California Identity Theft Summit – Save the Date

Mark your calendar for Wednesday, April 11, 2007. The third annual California Identity Theft Summit will address privacy in the online world, from public policy issues to practical tips on ways consumers can protect against identity theft and cyber criminals. The Summit is sponsored by the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Privacy Protection, and District Attorneys Association joined by consumer services agencies. For more information, visit the Summit’s Web site,


[6] Please Donate to the PRC

The PRC is a non-profit organization established 15 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. You may contribute in one of two ways.

  1. By using our online Donate Now feature (click here) or click the “Donate Now” button on our home page,
  2. By printing out our donation form and mailing a check or money order,

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.


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If you have any suggestions or questions about this newsletter, please contact: the editor, Leslie Flint


To contact PRC staff:

Beth Givens, Director

Tena Friery, Research Director

Paul, Consumer Advocate


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