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Identity Theft Tv Special Helps Protect Consumers from Fast Growing Crime

11/25/2003

CONTACT: Pam Ricco
850-224-2265

TALLAHASSEE - At the start of the busiest shopping season of the year, the Florida Bankers Association today announced its sponsorship of a statewide television broadcast aimed at protecting consumers against Identity Theft.

Identity Theft - one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation – affects nearly 10 million people annually. A recent study on Identity Theft by the Federal Trade Commission reported that the average cost to victims totaled $500 and the average loss to businesses and financial institutions totaled $4,800. The study also found that victims spend an average of 30 hours resolving the problems that stem from Identity Theft.

Identity Theft occurs when someone steals personal information such as a Social Security number, a driver's license number or other personal financial information and uses it to establish credit by applying for loans or credit cards to buy merchandise and services.

"Fueled by the growth of the Internet, the number of consumers falling victim to Identity Theft has risen dramatically over the past few years," Mike Fields President of the FBA said.

"We're about to enter the holiday shopping season. We think there is no better time to raise awareness about Identity Theft and let consumers know how they can fight back," said Fields.

Ninety-four percent of Americans believe their personal information is vulnerable to misuse, and their fears are well founded.

"The ease with which the crimes are perpetrated and the financial impact on individual and business economies all support the need for a far-reaching consumer oriented informational campaign," said Alex Sanchez, CEO of the Florida Bankers Association.

This year the campaign expands to include sponsorship of a special half-hour television broadcast that will reach millions of viewers across the state and the nation with a strong consumer education message that could save countless individuals from becoming victims of this fraud.

The program demonstrates simple steps consumers can take to protect themselves from this life-altering crime. The broadcast also showcases new technologies, as well as far-reaching efforts by law enforcement, financial institutions, and government to keep individuals and families safe from Identity Theft.

For the past three years the FBA has kicked off an ID Theft awareness campaign at the holiday season. The campaign has included print materials, radio public service announcements in English and Spanish, a web site and a first-of-its-kind online fraud reporting system, FraudNet.

Taking part in the broadcast are the Florida Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer, chief investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, nationally recognized consumer experts, leaders in the banking, business and financial industries, victims and perpetrators of these frauds.

"With Identity Theft on the rise, I am very appreciative of the Florida Bankers Association's efforts in battling this crime," said Attorney General Charlie Crist. "Consumers need to stay informed on ways to protect their personal information and this program furthers that goal."

"Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing types of financial fraud in the U.S., with thousands of consumers falling prey to Identity Theft every week," said Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher. "I applaud the Florida Bankers Association for stepping up efforts to help educate consumers on how to safeguard their personal information."

"I'd like to commend the producers and the Florida Bankers Association for putting together an informative video. Public awareness is one of the best ways to prevent Identity Theft and I think thousands of Floridians will benefit from this video and be able to better protect themselves," FDLE Commissioner Guy Tunnell said.

NBC 6/ WTVJ Miami and Tallahassee based Tight Shots & Sounds, Inc., and Mediawise Creative Services collaborated on the production of this 1/2-hour television special. The special broadcast, Stolen Identities: Protecting Your Good Name, will be offered, at no cost, to television stations across the state.

This team also produced the statewide documentary Hurricane Andrew: Ten Years After.

The FBA's consumer web site, www.banksprotectprivacy.com gives advice on how to avoid Identity Theft, as well as contact information for filing a complaint. Here are just a few of the tips.

When shopping this holiday season -


· Carry only a few credit cards with you.

· Beware of "Dumpster Divers." Shred all credit card receipts and solicitations, cancelled checks and financial documents before throwing them away.

· Watch out for "Shoulder Surfers" - people who lurk behind you when you are at an ATM and get your PIN number to gain access to your account.

· Check your credit card statements carefully and immediately report unauthorized purchases.

· Never write down PINs and passwords - memorize them and do not use any part of your Social Security number, mother's maiden name, your birth date or address.

· Don't leave paid bills in your mailbox.

· Check your credit report at least twice a year.

Taking these simple steps can help shoppers avoid holiday headaches. Visit the Web site at www.banksprotectprivacy.com for more helpful information.