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.

Census Scams -- You Can Count on It

Now that the April 1st mail-in deadline has passed, Census employees are expected to make home visits to those individuals who did not return their Census forms.  Census workers will begin visiting private homes on May 1st.  Be careful. Scam artists posing as Census workers may engage in a number of tactics to collect personal information about you to commit fraud.  Typically, scammers will seek to obtain information such as your Social Security number or financial information.  Don’t fall for the trap!  At Census time and throughout the year, guard your personal information carefully. 

If you are not certain of the legitimacy of a request for information from the Census or any other organization, ask questions.  Do not provide any personal information until you have verified the identity of the requester. Read our tips so that you don’t fall prey to a scammer.

LifeLock Customers to Receive Refunds

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that customers of LifeLock's identity theft protection services will be receiving refunds as part of a settlement with the company. Since 2006, LifeLock has advertised that it could prevent identity theft for consumers willing to sign up for its $10-a-month service. However, the fraud alerts that LifeLock placed on its customers’ credit files protected only against certain forms of identity theft. Yesterday’s FTC announcement about LifeLock confirms that consumers should use caution and common sense before paying for identity theft monitoring services.

New Federal Law Protects Gift Card Users

Is the gift card that you received for your birthday last month burning a hole in your pocket? Do you still have an unused gift card from the holidays? Consumers often have had to worry about using gift cards before they lost their value. That will now begin to change for the better.

Until recently, many gift cards users had few legal rights to protect them from fees and expiration dates. Although some states had laws protecting gift card users, there was no federal law offering nationwide consumer protections. That has now changed with a new federal law (the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act) that provides important protections for gift cards sold on or after August 22, 2010.

Geotag, You're It! What Your Smartphone Might Be Saying Behind Your Back

Snap a photo of a sunset with your iPhone and you can upload it to Twitter with a few clicks. But your smartphone might be transmitting more than a pretty photograph. It could be collecting and storing data about your real-time location – and then broadcasting that information when you upload photos onto the Internet. What is Geotagging? Geotagging refers to the practice of adding location information – like GPS coordinates – to different types of media, such as photos. The location information is embedded in a way that may not be visible to the naked eye. There are several ways to make geotags visible, including browser plug-ins and software programs that can reveal the location information embedded in photos, videos and other types of media.

It’s Tax Day! Now, What to Do with All Those Records?

Today is Tax Day, the last day to file your federal income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You’ve spent the last several weeks collecting sensitive financial documents and now you’re probably wondering what to do with them. Financial documents may contain information, such as your Social Security number, that you should keep private in order to prevent identity theft. Therefore, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has compiled a guide on document retention and destruction tips to help protect your privacy.

Mark Your Calendars: CFP2011

Mark your calendars for the 21st annual Computers, Freedom & Privacy (CFP) conference, June 14-16, 2011 in Washington, D.C. at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.

Register online at  For more information, visit

How to Choose an Identity Theft Monitoring Service

If you’re thinking about purchasing identity theft monitoring services, there is now a “shopping guide” that will help you choose the best service for you. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) participated in a task force hosted by the Consumer Federation of America to develop a set of guidelines for the identity theft monitoring industry. Members of the task force, which included industry, consumer, and government representatives, researched the industry for 16 months and recently published Best Practices for Identity Theft Services (PDF). The report provides a blueprint for what identity theft monitoring services should be doing.

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.


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