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ChoicePoint Victims Have Work Ahead

Eternal Vigilance Is Price of Credit

By Caroline E. Mayer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2005; Page E01

A few days ago, most people probably had not heard of data-collection warehouse ChoicePoint Inc., let alone knew that the firm sold personal information to companies about potential customers, tenants or employees.

Today, though, many consumers may be wondering whether their personal and financial data were included in 145,000 reports the company inadvertently sold to criminals involved in an identity theft scheme.

Data collection firm ChoicePoint Inc. inadvertently sold 145,000 personal information reports to fraud artists involved in an identity theft scheme. (John Bazemore -- AP)

_____Related Coverage_____
ChoicePoint Sued Over Identity Theft (Reuters, Feb 23, 2005)
_____From Slate_____
Has Your Identity Been Stolen? Here's what you do if you find out your identity might have been stolen.
ID Theft Scam Hits D.C. Area Residents (The Washington Post, Feb 21, 2005)
ID Data Conned From Firm (The Washington Post, Feb 17, 2005)
In Age of Security, Firm Mines Wealth Of Personal Data (The Washington Post, Jan 20, 2005)

Consumers "shouldn't panic, but they should be vigilant," said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

Here's some advice that consumer advocates, government officials and industry officials are giving consumers:

How do I know if my personal information was given out?

ChoicePoint is sending letters to affected consumers. "If you don't receive a letter from ChoicePoint within the next . . . 10 days, you can be assured you have not been a victim of this identity theft," said company spokesman Chuck Jones.

If I don't receive a letter, does that mean my private information has not been compromised?

Not necessarily. Although it may not have been affected by this particular scam, there are other identity thieves around. Always check monthly bank and credit card statements to make sure all charges are valid. And if you suddenly stop receiving your monthly statements, contact the appropriate bank immediately. It may be a sign that someone has hijacked your account and is having statements sent to another address to keep you from realizing it.

Equally important, review your credit reports at least once a year. The three credit bureaus are: Equifax at www.equifax.com (or 800-685-1111), Experian at www.experian.com (or 888-397-3742) or TransUnion at www.transunion.com (or 800-888-4213).


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