Is Your Identity Safe?

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How many times have you been asked for your personal financial information and you gave it up without protest?

And how much information do you carry around in your wallet or purse that could be used by someone to steal your identity? For instance, do you routinely carry your checkbook? How about a stack of bills that need paying? Or your Social Security card?

Any one of those items is treasured by identity thieves. And if you've been following the news lately, you should be very concerned about identity theft.

Last week, ChoicePoint Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga., informed more than

100,000 people that their information was sold by the company to con artists.


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Data Conned From Firm" from last Friday's Post. Among the potential victims of this particular scam are thousands of Washington area residents, according to this follow-up story from Monday's Post --
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ID Theft Scam Hits D.C. Area Residents."

The conning of ChoicePoint is stunning. This is a very sophisticated company that provides data services to many of the nation's top financial entities, and even the federal government.

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Read this profile of the company by The Post's Robert O'Harrow.

But ChoicePoint delivered thousands of electronic reports containing names, addresses, Social Security numbers and other personal financial information to criminals in the Los Angeles area who were posing as officials in legitimate debt collection, insurance and check-cashing businesses. In case you don't know, ChoicePoint maintains the CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) database used by insurers to check the five-year claims history of both a homeowner and a particular property.

As scary as the ChoicePoint story is, I want to remind you that your identity is more likely to be stolen by someone you know. Read my column from Feb. 13 --

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"When ID Theft Starts at Home."

According to the 2005 Identity Fraud Survey Report -- released by the Better Business Bureau and Javelin as an update of the Federal Trade Commission's 2003 Identity Theft Survey -- relatives, friends and neighbors make up half of all known identity thieves.

So what should you do if you find out your information may be in the hands of a con artist? Check out Caroline E. Mayer's article from yesterday's Post --

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Victims Have Work Ahead: Eternal Vigilance Is Price of Credit."

Also, read this column I wrote back in 2002 --

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With Identity Theft, It Pays to Be Paranoid," and here's the
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FTC's comprehensive ID theft resources page.

NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at

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. New articles daily.

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Marcus Didius Falco
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