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Gallagher Warns of Misleading E-mails Announcing the Release of Personal Financial Information

5/22/2003

CONTACT: Tami Torres
850-413-2842

TALLAHASSEE—Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher today warned consumers to watch out for a misleading e-mail message making the rounds on the Internet which implies that credit bureaus will be releasing personal financial information contained in their databases to anyone who requests such information.

The following text is an example of the contents of such an e-mail message:

The four major credit bureaus in the U.S. will be allowed, starting July 1, to release credit information, mailing addresses, phone numbers, etc. to anyone who requests such information. To 'opt out' of this release of information, call 1-888-567-8688. It only takes a couple of minutes to do, and you can take care of anyone else in the household while making only one call, you'll just need to know their social security number. Be sure to listen closely, the first ‘opt out' is only for two years; make sure you wait until they prompt you to press '3' on your keypad to' opt out' for good.

According to state regulators, while the listed toll-free number is used by the four major credit bureaus, it is not true that consumers must call this number before July 1, 2003. Furthermore, there are no laws that allow credit bureaus to share private information with anyone. Credit bureaus cannot sell non-public personal information (e.g., Social Security number, employment history, bank account information).

Credit bureaus, however, may create lists containing the names, addresses and phone numbers of consumers and sell them to telemarketers and direct-mail marketers. Consumers may call the toll-free number – 1-888-5OPTOUT – to request that credit bureaus not include their information on any marketing lists. There is no deadline for this process – consumers may call the number at any time.

Under federal legislation enacted in 1999 – the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) – banks and insurance companies that are not affiliated are allowed to share a consumer's financial information without restriction unless the consumer prohibits it. In order to stop this sharing of information, you must specifically invoke your "opt-out" privileges. Your right to "opt out" of the information-sharing process is ongoing and may be invoked at any time by contacting your financial institution in writing.

Gallagher advised consumers of other ways to safeguard their privacy:


· Read any inserts in your bills or other mail from insurers and financial institutions, and react when notice is given that they may be sharing your information.


· Read all authorization forms before you sign them. Find out to whom you are authorizing release of your records and why.

∙ Find out what is in your credit report. It is available to anyone with a legitimate business need, including insurers, landlords, employers and creditors. Order your credit report once a year and make sure it is accurate.

∙ Be especially protective of your social security number. Only give it out when required. If your SSN falls into the wrong hands, you could become a victim of identity theft. Do not have your SSN printed on your checks.

The Department of Financial Services offers a brochure free of charge with information and tips to safeguard your personal financial and medical information. The brochure is available by calling our Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762 or by visiting www.fldfs.com and clicking on "Consumer Guides."