Debt collector or scam artist? Know how to spot a fake


As we become increasingly reliant on digital data, we sometimes take for granted that the companies we entrust with our information are taking the necessary steps to keep it safe. Many are, but many are still way behind and that is what the hackers, cybercriminals and scam artists are counting on.

The fake debt collector scam is particularly disturbing. While the scam isn’t a new one, criminals are finding innovative ways to accomplish their goals of stealing your money, your identity, or both.

Recently, the database of a national collection and debt service company was breached. Specific information about individuals was accessed, including the amount of debt owed, names, phone numbers, addresses, co-signer information, and Social Security numbers. Fraudsters then posed as legitimate debt collectors. With such a vast knowledge of the account holders’ information, an individual would have little reason to be suspicious.

The FTC’s Data Broker Report: What does it mean for you?


The data broker industry has been on the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s (PRC) radar for over a decade, and we continue to receive questions and complaints about data brokers almost every day. Lawmakers, regulators, and media have focused more attention on the industry in recent years, but it is still difficult for individuals to understand what is going on and why they are unable to exercise any meaningful control over their information.

On May 27, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report titled “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability.”  The report is the result of an FTC study of nine data brokers offering people-search, marketing, and/or risk mitigation products.  It explains how particular data brokers operate, lays out risks and benefits they pose to individuals, and asks Congress to consider legislative solutions. 

Big Data: The White House Is Thinking about It -- You Should Too.


The White House recently released a report on big data. While it was highly anticipated by people who closely follow data privacy issues, chances are that it wasn't on the radar of most individuals.  Even so, we believe it is an issue that everybody should start thinking about.  

Why is big data a significant privacy challenge?

As technology advances so does the ability to collect, combine, and analyze data.  This is relevant to individuals because, as the report states, "the volume of information that people create themselves…pales in comparison to the amount of digital information created about them each day."

Individuals often aren’t aware when information about them is collected and used. They may not know who has data associated with them, who that data may be shared with, and whether there are any choices or protections in place (in many instances there are not).

In addition, it is difficult to predict how this information may be used in a way that impacts someone’s life – for better or worse.

So you have a privacy question or complaint—now what?


Submit your privacy questions and complaints to us through our Online Complaint Center (OCC). Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s dedicated Consumer Advisor responds to everyone, and we work very hard to stay up-to-date on a wide range of privacy issues

Here are some common questions we receive about the OCC.

Passwords aren't enough! Why you should consider using two-factor authentication


Passwords are dead.  Or so we keep hearing.  On their own, passwords clearly aren't the best way to protect our important information and accounts.  However, for better or worse passwords are still very much alive until the next solution comes along and is widely adopted. 

We have been preaching good password hygiene for many years, and we still think it is important.   But unfortunately data breaches occur quite often and cybercriminals can be quite savvy.  If you want to learn more, the 2014 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report contains information on attacker methods and patterns over the past decade.

You can never assure perfect security, but fortunately you can take some steps to avoid being the low-hanging fruit.  One way to do this is to look for and enable two-factor authentication in your online accounts.  

Mobile Device Security: Basic Tips to Protect Your Data from Thieves and Cybercriminals


With the ever increasing presence of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in our lives, it is important to be aware of some common privacy and security threats.  These are vast and varied, so the level of privacy and security you seek will likely depend on the information at stake.

Start by thinking about the information on your device.  How valuable is this information to you? Would you be upset if someone accessed it without asking you? What would happen if it were lost or stolen? Below we’ve noted a few things you may want to think about, and some tips to help you get started!

Aside from physical theft, threats such as malware and spyware have become increasingly sophisticated.  The good news is there are some EASY things you can do to reduce your chances of falling victim.

Don't Become a Target: Make Smart Choices to Protect Your Privacy


With all of the media surrounding the Target, Neiman Marcus, and, now, Michaels data breaches (and potentially other retail outlets), it can be overwhelming to determine what you should do to protect yourself.  Even though you can't prevent a breach, there are steps you can and should take to prevent future headache and harm.   

This is an important alert to read even if you weren't a victim of the recent breaches. As privacy and security professionals say on a regular basis, data breaches aren't a question of "if", they are a question of "when." It is best to be prepared and proactive.

Read more to find out our top 5 tips.

Make Protecting Your Privacy Your 2014 New Year's Resolution!


Privacy has been a hot topic in 2013, and the New Year presents a perfect opportunity to examine how we protect our personal information and resolve to do better.  Privacy Rights Clearinghouse poses ten questions to help you manage your privacy in the coming year.

  • Are your computers and mobile devices properly secured?
  • Do you know your apps?
  • Are you following good password practices?
  • Do you practice safe social networking?
  • Have you checked your credit reports recently?

 

 

Assembly Privacy Hearing: Online Data Brokers and Fair Information Practices


Assembly Privacy Hearing: Online Data Brokers and Fair Information Practices

Are You Considering Using a Personal Mobile Device for Work? Read Our Tips on BYOD!


"Bring your own device," or BYOD, is a popular practice with both employers and employees.  Employees like the convenience.  They don't want to worry about carrying multiple phones or tablets. They like using devices they are comfortable with. And, they can work from anywhere.  Employers like having connected employees, and some believe that BYOD policies save the company money.

The tradeoff for employers is that they lose some control over company data and can face greater legal, business and security risks.  Unfortunately, this may mean employees compromise privacy and control over their own phones and data when they agree to participate in a BYOD program.

Tips for Employees

1.  Read and/or understand the employer's policy before you participate.  BYOD policies will vary depending on who you work for, what kind of data you have access to, what industry you are in, and what your role is.  They may involve formal contracts or informal agreements.   As is often the case, the most important thing to do is understand what you are signing up for!   A BYOD policy can create a win-win situation or a messy dispute.  

If the policy is written, read it thoroughly. If you don't understand it, ask your manager or human resources department to explain what it means. 

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