Privacy Rights Workshop a big hit In Seaside

On June 4th Consumer Action hosted a workshop on privacy rights in Seaside, CA, drawing advocates and consumers from nearby Salinas and Watsonville.
Published: Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Participants came to the training with a thirst for knowledge and numerous questions about privacy and particularly identity (ID) theft, such as how it occurs, the difference between a fraud alert and a security freeze, and how creditors offering pre-approval are able to get their hands on potential customers’ personal information. Community Outreach Manager Linda Williams facilitated the training. She addressed the crowd’s biggest concern as she dove right into ID theft, informing participants that ID theft is the fastest growing white-collar crime in America. ID theft occurs when an imposter steals another person’s personal information and uses it to obtain credit. When the thief fails to pay the bills, creditor or collections agencies begin their robotic calls demanding payment to an unsuspecting victim. In addition, fraudulent delinquent accounts may end up negatively affecting a victim’s credit report. Explaining the difference between a fraud alert and a security freeze, Williams noted that a “fraud alert” is a special message that’s placed on the credit report. It tells credit issuers that fraud may be involved. While an alert may slow down an ID theft, she noted that the security freeze will stop the thief in his or her tracks making credit files off-limit to potential creditors, insurance companies, and employers trying to do background checks. Participants learned that they could download sample freeze letters from the California Office of Privacy Protection and learned more about other great resources for consumer advocates, such as the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Williams shared a list of privacy laws pending in California and informed participants that they can obtain updates on the laws by visiting Consumer Action’s main website as well as its sub-site dedicated to privacy, located at In response to the question of how a creditor gets a person’s personal information for preapproved offers, Williams told participants the information can come from credit reporting agencies. Williams explained that a creditor or insurer establishes criteria, like a minimum credit score, and asks a consumer-reporting company for a list of people in the company’s database who meet the criteria. Williams told participants if they decide that they don’t want to receive prescreened offers, they can opt-out of receiving offers for five years or even permanently by calling 1888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or by going to to stop the offers. They can also send a certified letter to the credit reporting agencies to request that the agencies stop sharing their personal information. The workshop received high marks from participants and many requested that CA return with more training for the area. One attendee even mentioned that the Privacy Rights training was the best, most exciting and energetic workshop she had ever attended.



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