SOURCE: Identity Rehab Corporation

January 27, 2006 15:40 ET

Record FTC Fine Underscores Need for Consumer Control of Personal Identity Information

Security Breach at ChoicePoint Brings Calls From Security Experts for Americans to Take Charge of Their Own Public Information

DENVER, CO -- (MARKET WIRE) -- January 27, 2006 -- On the wake of the Federal Trade Commission's announcement of its largest fine ever against a corporation, consumers nationwide might still be left with a persistently nagging question: One year after the personal information of 163,000 Americans was compromised in the security breach of data seller ChoicePoint, do the FTC's actions make my personal information more secure?

"In the data warehousing world there is never total security or even anything close to it," said former Secret Service agent Robert Fisak, now Director of Law Enforcement Relations at Denver-based Identity Rehab, a consumer advocacy company that provides personal data retrieval and resolution services.

"The sheer volume of personal data out there, along with the number of companies with access to it, means the sort of leak that affected ChoicePoint -- and hence hundreds of thousands of consumers -- will unquestionably become more common," Fisak said.

ChoicePoint is just one of many companies that supplies personal data identification and credential verification services to companies and agencies seeking to confirm information supplied on credit applications and other documents. On Thursday the FTC fined the Atlanta-based company $15 million -- its largest penalty in history -- for failing to secure data on 163,000 consumers that was stolen from ChoicePoint's records in February 2005. As a result, the FTC estimates that more than 800 of those consumers have fallen victim to identity theft.

"Without knowing who has this crucial data or how it's being used, these consumers are at serious risk to credit card fraud or all-out identity theft, which can dramatically raise risks of a variety of financial and personal hardships," Fisak said.

Moreover, personal data is often incorrect. A study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that about 70 percent of American credit reports have errors.

So what can consumers do to protect themselves against breaches and defects? Fisak offered a handful of suggested precautions and corrective measures:

1. Keep a close eye on your personal information. By monitoring your personal information regularly, you will be aware of any incorrect information that could signal identity theft, personal or computer error.

2. Secure your mail. A variety of mailboxes protect incoming and outgoing mail from theft. Some have locks or keypads with combinations that you can share with your post office. Others feature mail slots that allow you to insert letters into the box but prevent letters from being taken out of it until you unlock the whole unit.

3. Shred your trash. Buy a paper/document shredder for destroying any trash that contains a password, an account number or any type of personal information that should be treated with caution. Some shredders will even chop credit cards. Otherwise, use a sharp pair of scissors to make several small pieces of the card.

4. Photocopy your passport and contents of your wallet and store in a safe place. Copy both sides of your driver's license and all credit cards should you need to call and cancel cards or replace a lost or stolen license. Carry a photocopy of your passport when traveling either domestically or abroad. And if you ever receive a letter concerning a possible breach of security from your bank, post office, or any institution you deal with, make a copy of that, too. If someone does steal your identity, this information will assist in a rapid identity recovery.

5. Change account numbers. If you feel that any of your accounts may have been compromised, do not hesitate to change the account number. This applies to credit cards, bank accounts, utilities, cell phones, medical insurance, car insurance and anything else that may be linked to your money. Also, make sure that your account numbers do not contain any part of your Social Security Number.

About Identity Rehab

Identity Rehab offers comprehensive report of personal information reports in order to monitor and ensure accuracy. Unlike checking just credit reports, the Identity SnapShot includes data from nine additional sources, from credit reports to criminal background to DMV and medical records. The report is designed to put personal information and public records back in the control of the consumer as opposed to the agencies and institutions who gather and use this information to make crucial decisions about them.

Identity Rehab

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Jim Dissett or Ron King
    Vanguard Communications