Event targets identity theft

TUESDAY, AUG. 7, 2007

OLYMPIA – Got a box of old credit card bills tucked away in the attic? Sagging file folders of long-ago medical records? Years’ worth of checkbooks and canceled checks, patiently waiting for an IRS audit that never came?

The shredding truck is on its way.

On Thursday, Attorney General Rob McKenna is coming to Spokane, the third stop on McKenna’s 13-city “Shredathon.” People are invited to destroy their old documents and to stick around for pointers on avoiding identity theft. Speakers include state consumer-protection staffers, as well as officials from the Federal Trade Commission and the senior-citizens group AARP.

“More than 5,000 Washington residents become victims of identity theft each year,” said Ryan Shannon, a spokesman for McKenna. “This isn’t a panic thing, but people need to get educated to try to keep these statistics down.”

The shredding lasts from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Spokane Community College parking lot, 1810 N. Greene St., using a large industrial shredding truck loaned by Spokane’s DeVries Information Management. The forum will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in SCC’s Lair Room.

Over the past several years, state lawmakers have been trying to crack down harder on identity theft, in which thieves use personal data to commit financial crime in the victim’s name. Getting the information can be as simple as stealing credit-card offers from someone’s mail or as complex as trying to break into businesses’ computer networks to steal customers’ names and credit-card numbers.

Three years ago, state lawmakers passed laws:

•Requiring businesses to promptly report data breaches of personal information to customers.

•Establishing up to a $100,000 fine for someone using “spyware” to secretly monitor an infected computer’s activity.

•Specifically banning “phishing” scams, in which a thief pretends to be a victim’s bank or credit card company and uses the phone, e-mail or a Web site to try to trick the victim into revealing a Social Security number, account number or password.

This spring, lawmakers followed up with Senate Bill 5826, which allows any Washingtonian to order a “freeze” on his or her credit reports, which helps prevent a thief from opening new accounts in a victim’s name.

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