Sunday, December 25, 2005

First-hand account of info leak scare

Today's Dallas Fort Worth Star Telegram has a first hand account written by a recipient of a letter from ABN AMRO warning that his personal information was among that temporarily lost by a courier company. The author, Dave Lieber, did a bit of digging around and found he wasn't alone. In fact, he was among 57 million individuals affected by more than 142 recently-reported data breaches/losses. As it turns out, his information was soon found but he's going to be keeping a more watchful eye on his bank statements and credit reports.

The best preventive measure is to regularly check your credit report for suspicious activity.

A Web site - - lets you request a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year. Chris Hoofnagle, senior counsel with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, suggests you ask for one report every four months.

"You end up monitoring your credit so if something bad happens, you can quickly intervene," he said.

What are you looking for? "Anything that appears out of the ordinary," he said. Credit card "accounts that do not belong to you. Also, addresses and personal information that do not pertain to you. If there are errors, you call the credit reporting agencies and try to correct them."

Frederick Scholl, a security expert in New York, told me that he monitors his credit reports and his bank statements.

"People have gotten too lax," he said. "If you have Internet access, you can go in and check your statements on a regular basis and look for charges on your accounts. It just means you need to look at your own personal information statements on a regular basis more than you did in the past."

Hoofnagle says: "There's little an individual can do to prevent crime, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk.

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