Disasters and Your Privacy

Nobody likes to think about the possibility of a natural disaster or a terrorist act.   But as victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina can attest, it’s important to prepare for a disaster before it happens.  Certainly, your first concerns in an emergency should be your safety and basic needs such as shelter, food and water.  While there are many resources that can assist you with those concerns, this alert will focus on protecting your privacy and personal information during and after a disaster.

It’s important to realize that different types of disasters are likely to result in different consequences.  You may be asked to shelter in place, to evacuate to a facility in your own community, or possibly to relocate to a far-off location in another state.  Or you may choose to stay with a relative or friend.  Likewise, you may be able to return to your home after a short while, or there may be an extended period of absence.  In the worst case, your home and its contents may be completely destroyed.

Shred It, Don't Forget It!

With tax season ending, do you ever wonder what to do with your personal and financial records? Which ones do you need to save for tax or other purposes? While some people like to save things forever, others want to immediately toss out unnecessary clutter.

So what's the best way to decide whether to save or discard your records? Here are a few tips and information sources to help you decide which records you need to save, and how long you need to keep them.

PRC Portrayed in Lifetime Movie: Identity Theft - The Michelle Brown Story

A few years ago a Southern California woman named Michelle Brown contacted the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse seeking help regarding an especially difficult identity theft situation. The thief obtained information provided by Michelle on a housing application and procured over $50,000 in goods and services including a lease for an apartment, a $32,000 truck, and liposuction. The thief also obtained a state- issued ID using Michelle's name and later engaged in drug smuggling for which she was arrested as Michelle.

The Saga of Shredding in the U.S.: A Privacy Advocate's Perspective

Even though since those "early years" in our identity theft work shredding has become a household word and shredders are a common household item, trash is still a lucrative source of Social Security numbers and other useful bits of personal information for those who perpetrate identity theft.

It's Tax Time. Take These Extra Precautions with Your Mail

During the month of January, check your mailbox for information notices from organizations that have made taxable payments to you during the previous year. While these information notices are essential for preparing your taxes, they also are a treasure trove for identity thieves. A typical information notice has your non-truncated Social Security number as well as the name of your employer, your bank, mutual fund, or stock broker.

Prevent Identity Theft with Responsible Information-Handling Practices in the Workplace

Experts in identity theft report that an increasing number of cases can be traced back to dishonest employees in the workplace who obtain the sensitive personal information of employees and customers and disclose it to identity thieves. One of the keys to preventing identity theft, therefore, is to safeguard personal information within the workplace, whether it's a business, government agency, or nonprofit. Targets for identity thieves include SSNs, driver's license numbers, financial account numbers, PINs, passcodes, and dates of birth.

Who Is Using Your Checkbook? FDIC Warns About Qchex.com

While many consumers are scrambling to reduce their risk of identity theft, one business appears to be making it easier than ever to forge checks. Qchex.com allows customers to create checks without verifying the account holder's identity, according to authorities.

Prevent Identity Theft with Responsible Information-Handling Practices in the Workplace

Discussions on preventing identity theft often focus on steps consumers can take, such as shredding their trash and restricting access to their Social Security number (SSN). But realistically, while such measures can reduce the odds of becoming a victim, there is little individuals can do to actually prevent identity theft. The keys to prevention are two-fold, involving the credit industry and the workplace:

Social Security Numbers in the Private Sector: Comments to the FTC

Consumers often are coerced into providing an SSN as a means of authentication or verification, where appropriate authentication could be achieved through other means.  Our PRC consumer hotline receives numerous calls from concerned individuals who are reluctant to provide this information either by telephone or online.  They have heard the warnings about guarding their SSNs to protect themselves from identity theft.  Yet paradoxically, they are afraid to take advantage of two important services that can help reduce their potential exposure to identity theft.


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