Thanks to funding provided by a court approved Cy Pres Award from the iPod Nano Class Action Settlement, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) published a six-part series of short films that raise awareness about pressing privacy problems.
Directed and produced by Theo Davies, the films provide interesting character-driven storylines that draw attention to a privacy problem and then alert viewers to sources of information on our website, where viewers can learn more about the issue and their rights.
Below you will find videos and short synopses of the following privacy issues:
- Debt collection
- Employment background checks
- Annual credit reports
- Debit cards vs. credit cards
- Data breaches
1. Debt Collection: Know Your Rights.
Dealing with a debt collector can be one of life's most stressful experiences. This video highlights some of the abusive tactics that are reportedly used by debt collectors that choose to ignore the law.
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) sets the national standard for collection agencies. The FDCPA, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), prohibits abusive collection tactics that harass you or invade your privacy. Even if you owe a debt, a collector owes you fair treatment and respect for your privacy.
Generally, the FDCPA only applies to agencies that collect debts for others. However, other federal or state laws may apply to in-house debt collections.
It is very important to know your rights if you are being contacted by a debt collector. We explain your rights under federal and state laws in PRC's Fact Sheet 27: Debt Collection Practices: When Hardball Tactics Go Too Far.
2. Employment Background Checks: Know Your Rights.
The short film is designed to highlight certain problems and rights surrounding employment background checks.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) sets a national standard that employers must follow in employment screening. State laws may give an employee more rights than the FCRA.
Not all employment screening is covered under the FCRA. Employers that hire outside screening companies are covered, but employers that do inhouse background screenings aren't.
Under the FCRA, the employer must obtain the applicant's written authorization before the background check is conducted. The authorization must be on a document separate from all other documents such as an employment application.
Also, if the employer denies you employment because of information in your background report, they are required by law to provide you with certain notices that include a copy of the report and the contact information for the screening company.
You have the right to dispute errors in your background report.
Learn more about employment background checks and your rights by reading PRC's Fact Sheet 16: Employment Background Checks: A Jobseeker's Guide.
3. Annual Credit Reports: Know Your Rights.
The video is designed to highlight the importance of monitoring your credit report. Thanks to the federal FACT Act, consumers nationwide have the right to a free copy of their credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY site authorized to provide the free credit report you are entitled to by law. There are three ways to order your free reports:
- Online: www.annualcreditreport.com
- Toll-Free: (877) 322-8228
- By Mail: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/order?mail
We recommend staggering your free reports over the course of a year by ordering one report every four months. This way, you are monitoring your credit reports on an ongoing basis. But, if you are an identity theft victim or are shopping for credit, it is best to order all three at one time.
Learn more about credit reports and your right by reading PRC's Fact Sheet 6: How Private is My Credit Report?
4. Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards: Know Your Rights.
The film demonstrates that debit cards typically put consumers at much greater risk than credit cards because they offer less legal protection in the event of fraudulent purchases. And because debit cards access funds directly from your bank account, your money will remain missing while you and your bank sort out any theft, which could mean bounced checks, late fees, and numerous other problems.
A lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised debit card can result in your bank account being wiped out by a thief, without using your PIN number. Even if you promptly report the loss to your bank, the bank is not obligated to restore the funds to your account for several weeks while it investigates. During this time period, you may not have your funds available in your account to pay your mortgage, rent, loans, or other bills. Many people cannot afford to be without their money for that length of time. And if you wait too long to report the loss, you may not be able to recover the stolen funds at all.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends that consumers never use (or even carry) debit cards (also known as check cards) because of their risks and their limited consumer protections.
Learn more about payment options and your rights by reading PRC's Fact Sheet 32: Paper or Plastic: What Have You Got to Lose?
5. Data Breaches: Know Your Rights.
In this film, we explore how a typical consumer may respond to a data breach notification. We've been tracking data breaches since 2005. In most states, businesses are required by law to notify individuals when a data breach compromises personal information that is likely to lead to financial identity theft and many companies voluntarily disclose breaches when not required by law.
If a company you do business with leaks your data, our first piece of advice is not to panic. A data leak does not necessarily mean that you will become a victim of identity theft.
The next step is to figure out what type of information was breached. If your Social Security number was exposed, you are at risk for new account fraud. If your credit or debit card number was compromised, you are at risk for existing account fraud. Leaked names and email addresses may be used for spear phishing.
Learn what actions you should take depending on the data breached by reading PRC's Fact Sheet 17b: How to Deal with a Security Breach.
6. Smartphones: Protect Your Data
Smartphones store a tremendous amount of personal information. If your smartphone were lost or stolen, what information would someone be able to access? In this film, we explore the privacy implications of smartphones and offer practical tips to protect your privacy.
There are a lot of security measures you can take to protect your smartphone's data. Four beginning steps (outlined in the film) are:
- Password protect your phone. As always, make sure you use a strong password. For tips on creating an effective password see PRC’s “10 Rules for Creating a Hacker-Resistant Password.” You can usually find the feature allowing you to set a password in the phone settings.
- Do not allow your smartphone to automatically remember login passwords for access to email, VPN, and other accounts. Use your phone’s security lockout feature.
- Set the phone to automatically lock after a certain amount of time not in use.
- Install security software that allows you to remotely lock your phone and wipe the data. Never leave your phone unattended.