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Department of Law Urges Vigilance Against Identity Theft

Anchorage, Alaska - The Alaska Department of Law is observing national Protect Your Identity Week by urging consumers to be vigilant in protecting personal information.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Councils of Better Business Bureaus are launching the identify-theft initiative Saturday, and it runs through Oct. 24. Identity theft has topped the Federal Trade Commission's list of consumer fraud complaints since at least 2003. 

Assistant Attorney General Ed Sniffen, who works in consumer protection for the Department of Law, noted that a few simple precautions can minimize the risk of identity theft:

* Don't share personal information, particularly a Social Security number, except with trusted intimates. Such information should not be carried outside the home.

* Shred junk mail and other documents that contain personal information.

* Conceal PINs from view when using a credit or debit card at a cash machine.

* Never respond to spam e-mail requesting personal information.  Many e-mails purport to be from customers' banks, credit unions or other financial institutions or businesses and ask recipients to "verify" account information.  These are all scams.

* Never give any personal information on the phone.  In "pretexting," a scam artist calls and pretends to represent a credit card company, a phone company, the police, the IRS, the jury clerk's office or a business and asks for your personal information. No legitimate business or government office will do this.

* Passwords should not be obvious. Use of birthdays, for example, is discouraged.

"The Alaska Legislature wisely passed an identity-theft law requiring businesses and governments to provide notice when personal information has been compromised," said Attorney General Dan Sullivan. "Familiarity with this new law can help consumers protect themselves."

Consumers can place a freeze on credit reports and petition a court for a declaration of innocence after identity theft. Also, the law requires prompt destruction of records with personal information once it is no longer needed. For a summary, click here.

For information on Protect Your I.D. Week, visit www.ProtectYourIDnow.org. For general information on identity theft, visit the FTC's web page at www.ftc.gov.

Assistant A.G. Sniffen can be reached at 907-269-5220.



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