Scare Away Scammers

Most people are aware of the dangers posed by scams that claim to be originating from a business.  But what if you receive an e-mail, phone call, or letter claiming to come from a government agency?  Many consumers are likely to assume that such communications are legitimate because they appear to come from the government.

Unfortunately, these types of scams do occur.  Communications may claim to be from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, Medicare, your local Commissioner of Jurors, or other government agencies.  Learn about some of the recents scams and what you should do to avoid becoming a victim.

IRS Information Returns: An Identity Thief's Dream?

At this time of the year, you can expect to receive in your mail at least some IRS information returns that will contain your full Social Security number.  Your Social Security number is the key to identity theft.  For this reason, an information return (like a W-2) can be an identity thief’s dream come true.  In fact, some information returns may contain not only your full Social Security number, but your bank or other financial institution account number(s)—the perfect combination for identity theft.  Read our suggestions on what you can do to protect yourself.

Resolve to Be a Privacy Advocate in 2010

We at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse wish you a happy, prosperous and private new year.  This year, resolve to be a privacy advocate.  Use our 10 tips to minimize your risk of identity theft, protect your personal information and assert your rights to privacy. 

Our guide for 2010 will teach you how to be assertive in defending your privacy, find out how much of your personal information is stored in consumer reports and exercise caution while using online social networks.

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.

500 Million Sensitive Records Breached Since 2005

The most recent total from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse’s Chronology of Data Breaches shows more than a half billion sensitive records breached since 2005, leaving Americans vulnerable to identity theft. Employees losing laptop computers, hackers downloading credit card numbers and sensitive personal data accidentally exposed online -- the Chronology of Data Breaches shows hundreds of ways that the personal information of consumers is lost, stolen or exposed. The Chronology of Data Breaches, a project of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse since 2005, lists incidents involving breached consumer information, such as personal medical records, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers.

The most recent total, published August 24, 2010, is a wake-up call to consumers who think identity theft can’t happen to them. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates that the Chronology shows only a fraction of the total number of data breaches.

CFA Issues Best Practices for Identity Theft Services

On Thursday, March 10, 2011 the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) released Best Practices for Identity Theft Services (PDF) to address consumer concern about misleading marketing and exaggerated protection guarantees. Identity theft services typically monitor individuals’ credit reports for any activity, including inquiries and new accounts, and monitor public records for postings such as liens and judgments. Anomalies could be a sign that the individual is a victim of identity theft. The best practices are the result of 16 months of research and discussion by a multi-stakeholder task force that included Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) along with other consumer advocates and representatives of industry and government.

Our Top 5 Privacy Tips for National Consumer Protection Week

March 6-12 is the 13th annual National Consumer Protection Week! To celebrate, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is joining forces with government agencies and nonprofits to education consumers on important privacy issues. This year, we’re highlighting our top five privacy tips from our most popular fact sheets. Please join us! Participate in National Consumer Protection Week by sharing these tips with your friends and family. Together, we can empower consumers and protect privacy.

PRC Responds to FTC's Proposed Privacy Framework

On Feb. 18, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on its preliminary report, “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: a Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers.”  PRC commended FTC for recognizing the growing need for stronger consumer privacy protection both offline and online. However, PRC believes that self-regulation is ultimately not enough and that truly effective privacy protection is best accomplished through federal legislation. PRC’s comments focused on two major privacy issues: online behavioral advertising and data brokers.

California Court Ruling Strengthens Consumer Privacy

On Feb. 10, 2011, the California Supreme Court ruled that retail stores are not allowed to request and record a consumer's zip code as part of a credit card transaction. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and the Consumer Federation of California, that jointly filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on this case, the ruling gives further protection to California consumers and helps prevent unlawful use of personal identification information (PII).

Criminals Disguised as Cupid for Valentine’s Day

Don’t Let More than Your Heart Get Stolen. In the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, many consumers are feeling hopeful, romantic, and generous – feelings online criminals prey on in order to scam you. Most online scams fool you into clicking on malicious (dangerous) links. This week, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse urges consumers to be especially cautious online.

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