Identity should be a
■ Coming soon:
Cell phone directory
MANY LAW-ENFORCEMENT agenciesare being waiting for the FTC to take a stand. An FTC
stymied in their attempts to keep crooks from steal- spokesman said that, to his knowledge, the FTC
ing confidential personal information from Web “doesn’t have a specific policy or position regard-
sites. They don’t have the staff power to nab all the ing those entities.”
identity thieves, and they can’t keep up with the I think the next step should be a wake-up call to
electronic tricks used by savvy crooks. Congress to work on a bill so consumers can opt
Commercial data brokers are making a mint out if they don’t want their names listed in these
selling legal access to public records. For a small fee, identity searches.
they will retrieve personal data about any individual,
including address, phone numbers, place of employ- Cell phone 411 coming in 2006
ment and other records tracking an individual from BEGINNING IN 2006, millions of cell phone users
birth to death. This information is sold to anyone, will be listed through the same 411 directory that
without concern for how it is to be used. now lists standard phone numbers. There are also
These types of companies are protected plans to eventually include Voice Over Internet
under the Constitution. Since the data is culled Protocol, or VoIP, telephone numbers as well.
from public databases, data brokers operate legally But don’t panic about having your personal cell
because the First Amendment permits disclosure of phone number revea led to telemarketers,
public records. or the rest of the world, without your
Privacy-rights groups report the primary com- consent. This will be an “opt-in” data-
plaint they receive comes from professionals who, base, meaning that only people who
for personal-safety reasons, do not want their infor- actively enroll their cell phone number
mation for sale to anyone who’ll pay the price. But will have it listed. And if a customer has
keeping confidential information off these people- a change of mind, he or she can
finding sites is a Catch 22. ask to have the number delisted
To have their name removed from a vendor’s at any time.
database, privacy seekers must disclose personal The numbers will be
information, which proves their identity and vali- available only by dialing direc-dates their request to “opt out.” Then, they may have tory assistance and will not be
to pay a fee. But because the data are public infor- printed in a phone book or
mation, the company can’t promise that it will sold to telemarketers. As I
remove all of the items from a personal file, or that wrote this article, Cingular,
any information can be blocked indefinitely. T-Mobile, Nextel, Alltel and
One user of Fightback.com expressed her frus- Sprint planned to partici-tration over how her privacy is being violated by pate in the system. Verizon
these vendors: “With identity theft as rampant as it Wireless, the nation’s largest
is these days, how can Peoplefinders.com and cellphonecarrier,saysit will
Intelius.com offer personal information such as not do so for privacy reasons.
birthdates, current and past addresses, phone Verizoncustomers whoneeda
numbers and more to anyone willing to pay? And directory listing for business
if you want to be removed from Peoplefinders. purposes can post their num-com you need to supply the very same information, bers on Verizon’s SuperPages
including Social Security numbers, to have your online phone directory. C
records suppressed. How can this possibly be legal
that my private information be available to anyone
who is willing to pay?” David Horowitz is a
I contacted the CEO of Peoplefinders.com about leading consumer advocate.
this complaint. He agreed that a person shouldn’t have His “Fight Back!” commen-
to provide his or her Social Security information as a taries are heard daily on
“password” to have records blocked. He said that the Jones Radio Network.
because of my inquiry he was removing that require- For stations and times,
ment. The ironic part is he told me he really didn’t check the radio page at
need the customer to reveal that information.
AM Y CANTRELL
MY NIECE, visiting
California from Taiwan,
withdrew $1,500 in $100
bills from a U.S. branch of
her bank. When she got
home and deposited the
cash, they rejected 10 of
the $100 bills, saying they
were counterfeit. The U.S.
bank won’t do anything!
How can she get her
TONI, federal law requires
that any bank that receives
counterfeit money must
seize it and turn it in to
the Secret Service. In addi-
tion to its more well-known
function of guarding our
nation’s leaders and digni-
taries, the Secret Service is
responsible for protecting
the U.S. currency and
While the bank
may choose to
they nor the
nor any other
agency is obli-
gated to replace the
Experts say that
the best way to avoid
being ripped off by
counterfeiters is to sim-
ply avoid withdrawing
cash. Although your
niece was probably try-
ing to take advantage of
rates by bringing U.S.
currency to Taiwan, the
Secret Service says it’s
safer to wire funds elec-
tronically to a bank at your
destination. Credit cards
and travelers’ checks can
be risky to use abroad.
AMY CAN TRELL
© 2005 FIGH T BACK! INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Why not? Because with the great wealth of data
in public records he can easily cross-reference the
information the person provides to confirm other Do you have a question for David?
confidential information. Just log on to
www.fightback.com and “Ask David.” He will personally
Some consumer groups suggest filing a formal respond to your problem if you follow the instructions printed on his Web site.
complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (Costco members receive a rebate off the normal fee.) Questions and answers
(FTC) if you do not want your confidential infor- of the greatest interest to Costco members will be used in this column with
mation available for sale. But don’t hold your breath the permission of the contributor and will be posted on