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.

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.

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.

Is Your Computer a Zombie?

Has your computer or smart phone become a resource to commit malicious acts against other persons and companies? By taking advantage of a wide variety of computer vulnerabilities, your device may become a zombie that is under the control of a criminal that conducts crime using electronic devices (e-criminal). Once an e-criminal has control, not only is your device being used to attack other systems, anything stored on, or typed into, that device is also compromised.

In the past the malware focused on causing harm to the device such as making it crash or capturing keystrokes for the purpose of gaining access to bank accounts or credit card information.  As e-criminals continue to evolve their destructive goals and increase damage to their targets, they realized the need for substantial computing resources and a way to avoid being detected.  To achieve both of these goals, malware was developed enabling e-criminals to take over network-attached devices; a very cost effective solution!

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.

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).


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