- Your privacy is your privacy. You have every right to defend against privacy intruders and to insist your privacy be respected.
- Don't give more information than necessary, which is often less than asked for. Companies and governments often sell data about you. Always look for options that restrict their use of your information. Ask what personal information will be databased and used.
- Supermarket scan cards, for example, might get you special sale prices and pre-approve your check, but your purchasing history and banking information might be sold to others.
- Be extra careful with your social security number. In the wrong hands, it can be used by someone to impersonate you in order to steal from your accounts or to steal from others in your name.
- Guard your financial account numbers. Only provide your credit card, charge card, debit card, calling card or bank account number if you're using that account to pay for a purchase or you're applying for credit. In New York, it's not legal for a merchant to write your credit card number on your personal check.
- Discuss privacy concerns with your children and other household members. Everyone should understand what you feel is and is not appropriate to reveal on the phone, using a computer, or other situations. Screen your calls. Use an answering machine to listen to a caller and decide whether you want to pick up. The extra cost service Call ID, might display the account name and number of the phone used to call you, but it can't identify a specific caller.
- Keep your phone number private. You can block others from using Call ID to see your name and the number you're calling from, but blocking doesn't work with "toll-free" numbers. You can pay for an unlisted or unpublished phone number, which might reduce calls from strangers but won't stop telemarketers using sequential dialing or who got your number from another source.
- Don't allow your credit record to be checked except for legitimate reasons. With your consent, a lender or employer can check your credit record. But, it's illegal for a business to check your record unless you've requested assistance in obtaining financing. Too many inquiries can hurt your credit rating by making it appear that you are trying desperately to get credit.
- Check the Medical Information Bureau to see if they have a file on you and if the information is accurate. Misinformation could result in higher insurance premiums, denial of benefits, or an inability to obtain insurance coverage. To get a copy of your file, write to the MIB, PO Box 105, Essex Station, Boston, MA 02112; or call the MIB at (617) 426-3660.
Special Tips For Computer Users
- Never give anyone your computer password. Scammers may try to trick you into giving your password by pretending to be your online or Internet service provider to gain access, at your expense. Your service provider already has your password, and no one else should need it.
- Beware of "cookies" on the Internet. A web site can put a spy file, called a cookie, on the hard drive of your computer to track your activities on its own and other sites. You can usually set your browser software to reject cookies.
- Before providing financial information online, make sure it's safe. If you are providing your credit card or other account number by computer to make a purchase, check to see that the company uses a secure system so that the information cannot be intercepted by someone else.
- Maybe you don't want telemarketing calls or junk mail If personal information about you is inaccurately reported or misused, you could be treated unfairly, or even become a victim of crime. In some cases you have privacy rights, but many situations aren't covered by law.
- As a consumer, you benefit when information about you is used to approve a credit application, notify you about a sale at your favorite store, stock the supermarket shelves with more of your favorite products, or improve customer service where you shop. Still, we believe control over your personal information should be yours.
- By doing business with companies whose business practices respect your right to privacy, you can protect yourself and use your purchasing power to help promote good privacy policies.