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.

Top 8 Things You Shouldn't Give Social Networking Sites

While websites like Facebook and MySpace make it easy to share vacation photos with old classmates, the personal information on social networks is also attracting people besides friends and family members.  Scam artists, identity thieves, debt collectors, stalkers, hiring managers, and companies looking for a marketing advantage are turning to social networking sites to gather valuable information. Before you publish your next status update, take care that you aren’t risking your identity, security or reputation.

Below are eight things you shouldn’t give to a social network – when signing up for an account, posting content or interacting with your contacts through the network.

Summer Vacation - A Privacy and Identity Theft Primer

When you travel, your risk of exposure to fraud and identity theft may increase. It’s a fact that people tend to let their guard down while on vacation.  Identity theft is often a crime of opportunity.  Don’t be a vacationer who presents a thief with that opportunity.  Your personal information, credit and debit cards, driver’s license, passport, and other personal information are the criminal’s target. By spending a few minutes planning before you travel, you can help reduce the risk that a thief will ruin your vacation.  You can also help avoid unnecessary problems with your financial institution. Here are some tips for an enjoyable vacation.

What You Should Know About Credit Repair Companies

If you’re losing sleep over bad credit, ads promising a quick fix can seem like a dream come true. But, hook up with the wrong company and your dreams of clean credit can quickly turn into a living nightmare.

While the economy has faltered in recent years, credit repair companies have flourished. As is often the case, hard times for consumers create opportunities for scammers. An unscrupulous credit repair company may collect upfront fees, may make you pay for things you can get for free or may even persuade you to break the law.

If you are knee-deep in debt and thinking about a credit repair service, read out guide to find out how to recognize a dishonest credit repair service.

Attend the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference

Computers, Freedom and Privacy in a Networked Society is currently taking place in San Jose, CA .  Privacy professionals as well as the general public have been invited to hear expert speakers, attend panel discussions and learn about the impact of emerging technologies on individual liberties and personal privacy.

In its twentieth year, CFP is the leading policy conference exploring the impact of the Internet, computers and communications technology on society.  This year offers an exceptionally strong program.  Speakers include consumer privacy experts such as PRC's own Beth Givens and other advocates, as well as industry representatives Google's David Drummond and Microsoft's Peter Cullen. 

Even if you aren't in San Jose, you can still take part in the conference. Visit www.cfp2010.org to watch live broadcasts of the events, follow along via Twitter using the #cfpconf hashtag, or visit the conference Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cfpconf.

On Friday June 18th, partipants in the CFP Conference and online will be voting to adopt a Social Networking Bill of Rights. Contribute your ideas to the process via Twitter, Facebook and blog posts. Read more here: http://cfp.acm.org/wordpress/?p=341 and http://www.facebook.com/CFPBillOfRights.  Also contribute via Twitter using the #billofrights hashtag.

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.

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.

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