Monday, August 20, 2007

Apple Online Lawsuit Brings to Light Another Threat of Identity Theft

A recent lawsuit alleges Apple Store is not in compliance with Fair Credit Reporting Act, thereby making it easier for identity thieves to gather more personal information on consumers.

All businesses need to heed this as an example of things to come and protect their clients' personal information in any way that they can after a class action lawsuit, case number 07-22040, was brought against Apple Store online last week in Florida Federal Court alleging that the stores violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA is a federal law designed to help ensure that consumer reporting agencies act fairly, impartially, and with respect for the consumer's right to privacy when preparing consumer reports on individuals.

In 2003, an amendment was added that states, "No person that accepts credit cards or debit cards for the transaction of businesses shall print more than the last five digits of the card number or the expiration date upon any receipt provided to the card holder at the point of sale or transaction."

It was this amendment that Apple Store online was violating. Apple Store was apparently printing credit card expiration dates on the receipts, in addition to the other personal information. Companies were given a three-year grace period to comply with the law and the cost is so miniscule to make the change that most have made the change well in advance of the deadline. Apple Store, as of last week, was still not in compliance.

Identity thieves are getting smarter and smarter. Consumers must stay one step ahead and protect themselves from the financial devastation of identity theft. Consumers expect businesses to uphold the law and do what they can to protect personal information they acquire.

While no proof of a specific identity theft has stemmed from Apple Store's non-compliance, it is a recipe for disaster that reminds consumers to take every precaution when making an online purchase or any purchase with a credit card. The federal government has made efforts to protect citizens from identity theft but consumers must be on the offense and take matters into their own hands.

Place yourself in a situation to protect your personal information from theft and learn to practice fire prevention versus firefighting.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Credit Freeze Not the Only Solution to Identity Theft Prevention

Many people who live in states that allow you to freeze your credit are recognizing the benefits of such actions. But a lot are stopping there and not doing any more feeling they have covered the bases and have done what they can to protect themselves.

Governor Deval Patrick from Massachusetts recently signed into law comprehensive identity theft prevention legislation. This new law will require Massachusetts state residents be notified immediately if their personal information has been lost or stolen via security breaches with businesses and government agencies.

As a part of the legislation, the law also states that consumers have the right to freeze their credit reports to prevent new accounts from being fraudulently opened and also puts into effect strict standards for businesses when disposing of personal information.

The portion of the law that puts into place the standards for disposing of personal information is a step in the right direction to identity theft prevention. But allowing a consumer to freeze their credit report does not prevent the theft.

Personal information can already be in the hands of the wrong people. When personal information, such as social security numbers, drivers' license numbers or bank account information is used for widespread fraud, an emotional and potentially expensive mess is left for the victim to clean up.

Of the millions of victims of identity theft last year, many of them had crimes committed against them that had nothing to do with a credit card or loan. This would not be picked up by on credit report which is the focal point of a credit freeze. The black market is booming for individuals' names and IDs for thieves to sell and the buyers will use them for many different types of identity theft. That could include medical treatments, prescriptions, arrests, and theft of existing or open accounts.

One major solution to the problem is for people to practice self defense when it comes to their personal information. Society has become so accustomed to keeping droves of information available we are leaving it laying around us everywhere. The identity thieves are everywhere picking it up.

When it comes to your identity you need to think in terms of fire prevention and not firefighting.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Burden of Proof with Identity Theft

Victims of identity theft often feel victimized twice when identity theft happens to them.

We are all familiar with our legal system where the burden of proof is up to the prosecution for the people and you are innocent until proven guilty.

But with identity theft you are guilty or liable until you prove your innocence.

It doesn’t really seem to make sense but if you look at the logic, it does make sense. Although it puts the victim in a difficult, tedious, and time consuming position of defending themselves while all the while feeling violated because they are a victim.

Our financial system is set up and regulated by the federal government to provide easy and convenient transactions to keep the economy moving along without interruption. You can thank federal laws that limit your exposure to credit card fraud. They enacted those laws long ago to make people feel comfortable with using credit cards when they were first introduced. If people felt liable they would have been reluctant to use the system. Now our economy is completely tied to credit.

Those laws are visible in other areas as well. Take check cashing scams for example. The thieves take advantage of federal laws that require funds for checks to be made available quickly again, to keep the flow of commerce moving. People get taken due the expediency that banks provide funds for check presented, but then find out weeks later that the check was returned as a fraudulent device. You become ultimately liable for any fraudulent check that you present for funds.

In both cases of checks or credit cards you were given the benefit of the transaction in real time while it may be quite some time before the bank or you determine fraud has occurred. In the case of credit card fraud you need to prove that you did not actually make the fraudulent charges and with a check the bank relies on you to know who you are conducting business with.

The banking system really is set to benefit you, so when something goes awry you need to prove you were not involved. Most people never consider that when they conduct transactions. Who is to say that you where not involved in a fraudulent transaction and were not colluding with the perpetrator from the start.

If you become a victim of identity theft, you are really a victim in the eyes of others only after you prove it, and that will never feel good.