Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Did You Miss National Consumer Protection Week?

Okay, okay...I know that National Consumer Protection Week was last week but the information contained in this e-mail from Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry isn't like the milk in your refrigerator; that is, there's no expiration date on its usefulness. So scan through the resources Lee has itemized here and find the ones that are the most relevant for you and your family. Then bookmark them and use them at your leisure.

Writes Congressman Terry -- With the advantages of the Internet also come the hazards, as web use for recreation, communication, and commercial trade continues to rise as an important component of our economy and daily lives. Congress has a responsibility to ensure laws evolve with the times and technologies, to ensure adequate safeguards for the privacy and personal information of Americans.

Whether a Federal agency or private company, protections need to be in place to prevent hackers and identity thieves from accessing personal information such as Social Security numbers. Resources are also needed to investigate and punish these crimes. You may be interested to know that I have recently cosponsored four bipartisan data privacy bills relating to deceptive internet practices, like spyware; Social Security numbers; and ensuring businesses have security for protecting any personal information they retain.

As a member of the Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection panel in the U.S. House of Representatives, I anticipate hearings and legislation this year on privacy issues including spyware, Social Security number protection, data security, credit report abuses, and false advertising. I will continue to work on striking the right balance between protecting personal information without creating unnecessary regulations or added costs to consumers.

During the last session of Congress, we passed several pieces of legislation on data protection, including a bill to require that data companies use encryption mechanisms and notify those affected in the event that security is breached. Unfortunately, it did not pass the Senate or become law, so that work needs to be completed as soon as possible in this new session.

Fortunately, the "Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act of 2006" approved last year has been signed into law. It provides stiff penalties for individuals who use deception and fraud to get and sell confidential phone records, also known as "pretexting." I was pleased to vote for these data protection measures.

In addition, as it is National Consumer Protection Week, I am pleased to pass along the following resources for your future reference:

Consumer Action Handbook Online
The Consumer Action Website features general advice and information on how to solve consumer problems, as well as addresses, telephone numbers, and websites where you can file consumer complaints.

Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC)
The U.S. government's official web portal, pulls together more than 180 million federal, state, and local government web pages and makes it easy for the public to get U.S. government information and services on the web. Visitors also can use an e-mail form to send questions and comments for a response within two business days.

Federal Trade Commission provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information.
This site is a one-stop national resource with detailed information to help you Deter, Detect, and Defend against identity theft.
Education is a key tool to prevent consumer injury. At the FTC's website, you can get publications with advice on avoiding scams and rip-offs, as well as tips on other consumer topics.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
The FDIC is a major sponsor of National Consumer Protection Week and provides several consumer-based web products. Check them out here.

I trust this information will be of interest to you or someone you know.

Member of Congress
11717 Burt Street, Suite 106
Omaha, NE 68154
Phone: 402-397-9944