Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Citizens Have a New Tool to Help Them Take Control of Their Identities

Identity theft affects more than credit scores and bank accounts. By assuming another's identity, someone can commit crimes of all sorts and never face the consequences. The aftermath of identity theft can affect a person's job and reputation for years to come, with no easy way to repair the damage.

It's the job of all citizens to monitor activity taking place under their names. Arlington, VA-based MyPublicInfo provides the tool to do so: the Public Information Profile (PIP), available at my Web site, http://www.idtheftsecurity.com. You can obtain a PIP by going there and clicking on the "MyPublicInfo" logo.

Every citizen has a responsibility to stave the identity theft pandemic. While we all have the right to expect industry and government to rise to the challenges of identity theft, we can -- and must -- do a lot, ourselves, to make sure nothing is awry with our identities.

MyPublicInfo's PIP gives consumers access to their public records. The tool helps them in two main ways. Anyone who obtains one can view public records connected to his name and see information accessible to other people performing background checks. It is the first tool to provide consumers with user-friendly, complete, and legally-conforming personal profiles of aggregated public information.

According to Dr. Harold Kraft, CEO of MyPublicInfo, over the past year, the rash of data thefts has led consumers to feel powerless. "The PIP, checked regularly, empowers consumers; peace of mind no longer depends on the whim of an identity thief."

Terrorists could enter the country under stolen identities. I can't think of a more intuitive, comprehensive way than the PIP tool for American citizens to take control of their identities and help Homeland Security. I have viewed my own PIP. It was a momentous experience. Citizens will be surprised by the information that floats around online and in public records. This is all potentially available to criminals, and it only makes sense for each and every citizen to keep tabs on it.

Government is beginning to recognize that citizens deserve power when it comes to their own identities. An article in the Aug. 17 edition of Insurance Journal reported the passing of the Information Security and Notification Act in New York State. Once it takes effect in December 2005, the law will require businesses to inform New York residents when financial and personal information has been compromised.

A handful of states have enacted legislation like New York's Information Security and Notification Act, but the measures are reactive, and many states provide little protection. Citizens cannot afford to wait. The best course of action is to be proactive when it comes to identity theft. A PIP makes action all the more possible. I encourage all my clients to use it.


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