Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina is offering advice to help consumers protect themselves against identity theft. In addition, BBB is hosting a free document shredding event on April 18.
[USPRwire, Wed Apr 15 2009] With identity fraud increasing??"22 percent during the past 12 months, according to a Javelin Strategy and Research survey on ID theft??"Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina (www.bbb.org) offers advice to help consumers better protect themselves. Taking action now can save consumers future trouble and prevent the loss of money or other valuables.
The survey also estimates that 9.9 million Americans became victims of identity fraud last year, resulting in the loss of $48 billion. A growing number of these cases are the result of stolen junk mail. Pre-approved credit card offers, fliers and specially marked envelopes are not only a nuisance, they are an easy target for ID thieves.
"Alarmingly, people continue to throw sensitive documents in the trash, not thinking of how easily an ID thief can use these items," says Beverly Baskin, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina. "Individuals can take two simple steps to reduce the risk of identity theft: shredding sensitive documents and opting-out of mailing lists."
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away more than 4 million tons of junk mail each year, making the garbage can a goldmine for fraud artists. BBB recommends shredding all documents that contain sensitive information, or that can be used to activate an account.
To inform and assist consumers, BBB of Eastern NC is hosting "Secure Your ID" Day at Ridgewood Shopping Center on Wade Ave. in Raleigh on Saturday, April 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring up to three bags or boxes of documents to be shredded on the spot for free. BBB and sponsoring organizations will be distributing tips and information to help consumers protect their identity, both online and off. For more event information, visit www.easternnc.bbb.org/secureid.
In addition, BBB offers the following tips on opt-out methods for reducing junk mail:
Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers
Pre-approved credit card offers are an easy target for identity thieves who can steal incoming mail and use these offers to open fraudulent credit accounts. Stopping these pre-screened credit offers can help reduce the chances of identity theft.
To "opt-out" of receiving pre-approved credit card offers for at least five years, and perhaps permanently, consumers can call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit: www.optoutprescreen.com. This service is offered by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Consumers will be asked for personal information, including their name, address, birth date and Social Security Number. This information is only used to process requests and will remain confidential. This procedure will need to be followed for each adult family member.
Direct Mail Offers
Direct Marketing Association is a trade group with 5,200 member companies that use telephone, mail, and the Internet to pitch their products directly to consumers. To stop receiving mailings from DMA members, consumers can go to www.dmachoice.org. DMA regularly updates its list, but the companies it notifies to remove names from their mailing lists may not be as prompt to act, and it may take as much as six months before solicitations from all DMA members stop.
A consumer's mailbox can often be overrun with catalogues, even if they've never shopped with the company before. This is likely because the consumer has, at some point, made a catalogue or online purchase with a company that handed over their contact information to Abacus, an alliance of catalogue and publishing companies. To stop individual catalogues, consumers can contact the specific company in question. To stop mass mailings, consumers can e-mail, email@example.com, or write to Abacus, Inc., P.O. Box 1478, Broomfield, Colorado 80038.
"Resident" and "Occupant" Mailings
Consumers can remove their address from "resident" and "occupant" mailings that offer various goods and services by contacting Valassis??"formerly known as ADVO, Inc.??"either by phone 1-888-241-6760, or through an online form at www.advo.com/consumersupport.html. Consumers can also send a written request to ADVO, Inc. Customer Assistance, P.O. Box 249, Windsor, Connecticut 06095.
To stop receiving coupon packs, consumers can visit: www.coxtarget.com/mailsuppression/s/DisplayMailSuppressionForm, and fill out an online request form. Other requests can be directed to the sender on the printed envelope received.
Solicitations Sent to Children
If a child under age 13 is being mailed advertisements or credit card offers, it could be a sign that identity theft has occurred. Parents should contact the three major credit reporting bureaus, listed below, and inform them of the situation.
• Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
• Experian: 1-888-397-3742
• TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
About BBB of Eastern North Carolina:
The Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina is a 501 (c)(6) not-for-profit corporation serving 33 counties in Eastern North Carolina. The organization is funded primarily by BBB Accredited Business fees from more than 3,200 local business and professional firms. The BBB promotes integrity, consumer confidence and business ethics through business self-regulation in the local marketplace. Services provided by the BBB include, reports on companies and charitable organizations, general monitoring of advertising in the marketplace, dispute resolution services, and consumer/business education programs. All services are provided at no cost to the public, with the occasional exception of mediation and arbitration. Visit www.bbb.org.
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