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Fraud and Privacy Rights

Tips to Protect Your Personal and Financial Privacy

Your personal information, financial information, privacy, and online security is under attack on a daily basis by scams (emails, letters, phone calls), data breaches, social media scams, online & offline tracking, and many other threats. This means that you have to be vigilant and take ongoing steps to protect yourself and your information. The resources below will help you.


Protecting Your Money, Personal Information, and Your Identity

Remar Sutton's Privacy Webinar, November 2011


Protecting your personal and financial privacy means educating yourself to take on a complex challenge. You might say that fighting for your privacy rights is like taking on an octopus with many arms (one issue, lots of manifestations).

The resources in this section will help you stay informed about privacy issues and take steps to protect your personal and financial privacy.



Interesting Issues and Stories from the Webinar

newspaper extra edition

Story from the Washington Post: Little-known firms tracking data used in credit scores

Online Tracking and Behaviorial Profiling issues: The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s excellent updates on some key privacy issues.

  • Report: Internet Privacy tools Generally don’t work.
  • “Do Not Track” bills introduced in Congress, fought by lobbyists.
  • Gallup Poll: Public Opposed to Online tracking.
  • FTC recommends reasonably good “Do Not Track” notices—but avoids the tough stuff.


Privacy, consumer, and civil liberties groups, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, Consumer Action, American Library Association, Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook. Facebook had been secretly tracking users after they logged off of Facebook's webpage, and had recently announced changes in business practices that "[gave] the company far greater ability to disclose the personal information of its users to its business partners..."

Story from The Los Angeles Times: FACEBOOK CLOSE TO PRIVACY SETTLEMENT concerning retroactive changes

Staying Informed and Making Yourself Heard


There are lots of sites on the Internet that "cover" consumer privacy. How can you determine which sites deserve your trust? Here are a few tips:

  • Determine who runs the site. Look for an "about us" or "contact" page. If you can't find one or they don't clearly identify who they are then find other sites that do. If there's a list of sponsors, check it out.
  • Read their privacy policy. If you can't find one, find other sites that provide one.
  • Advertising. Does the site have advertising? If so, what is being advertised? Could the advertising influence the site content?


Phishing and Pharming for Your Personal and Financial Information


What is phishing (pronounced fishing)? These are scams that are trying to steal your personal and financial information. Phishing has primarily been online in the form of email or pop-up messages but can also occur over the phone or through the mail. Phishers have even started using text messages.

Phishers impersonate legitimate financial institutions—banks, credit unions—and businesses. The phishers cast a wide net that's bound to find persons that do business with the impersonated financial institution or company.

Email and pop-up messages may have a link to click or a phone number to call; text messages have included a toll-free phone number to call. In the case of a link, it usually goes to a fake website that mimics a legitimate site.


Other Scams to Watch Out For


Besides phishing, various other scams also arrive in your inbox. Here are brief descriptions of some of the most common.

The "Nigerian" Scam also called "Advance Fee" Scam

The email is requesting help to get large sums of money out of a foreign country. They promise you big profits in exchange for your help. Before you receive any money, you'll have to provide money to cover transaction and transfer costs and attorney fees plus you'll need to provide them with your bank account numbers. The "Nigerian" Scam: Costly Compassion from the FTC has more information.

Advance-Fee Loan Scam

These emails promise that a loan or credit will be approved even if you've been turned down many times already. But in order to get this loan you have to pay a fee. Advance-Fee Loan Scams: 'Easy' Cash Offers Teach Hard Lessons from the FTC has more information.



Enhancing Your Computer and Online Privacy


Enhancing the security of your computer doesn't mean just your desktop or laptop but all of your mobile devices too. Many computers and mobile devices have security software installed on them at the factory. But it's your job to make sure that it is activated and kept up to date. Keeping your personal information secure is an ongoing task. This article provides tips to help with that task.

Many examples of security products are mentioned in this article. You need to research these and similar products to decide which best fit your needs.


Five Steps to Protect Your Privacy and Identity


These five steps allow you to opt out of certain information sharing. These steps usually take an hour or less to complete. The reduction in marketing will be significant.

1. Opt out of prescreening by visiting or by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). Opting out of prescreening should reduce the volume of those "preapproved" credit card offers by as much as 90%. This will also opt out of "mortgage triggers."

2. Opt out of "CPNI" sharing by calling your phone companies. CPNI stands for customer proprietary network information (CPNI) and is the information about a consumer's telephone calls that telecommunications companies collect. This information includes the time, date, duration and destination of each call, the type of network a consumer subscribes to, and any other information that appears on a consumer's phone bill.


Make a Complaint


In addition to reporting fraud or identity theft to your state attorney general’s office you can file a complaint with the appropriate federal agency.

  • ID Theft—Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Fraud—Internet, telephone communications, retail—Federal Trade Commission
  • Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
    A partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).


Information Specifically for Seniors and Useful for Everyone


Seniors are a favorite target of scam artists and others who want to make a quick buck. For example, seniors are at risk of losing money in fraudulent investment schemes and are also at risk of losing their homes when they are used as security, in some instances unknowingly. These 2 articles from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) describe some of the pitfalls.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has assembled some resources to help seniors avoid fraudulent investments.


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