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NEW YORK-The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has launched a campaign, with the help of several other public and private sector organizations, including NAFCU, to educate consumers on how to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft. Chief Postal Inspector Lee R. Heath announced the initiation of Operation: Identity Crisis last week, which is receiving support from the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Secret Service and financial organizations. In making the announcement, Heath pointed to the recent FTC study revealing that nearly 10 million Americans fell victim to identity theft last year alone. “According to the Federal Trade Commission’s latest survey,” he stated, “last year businesses and financial institutions lost nearly $48 billion to identity theft, and consumer victims reported $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses.” As part of the campaign, posters will be displayed in all 38,000 post office lobbies around the country. In addition, many financial institutions will also hang the poster, which is available in 18″x24″ or 24″x36″. NAFCU will be distributing the poster to all its member credit unions and has been working closely with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in other ways as well. NAFCU has developed a statement stuffer on the issue, of which more than four million have been ordered. The organization’s general counsel, Bill Donovan, also participated in a radio program Sept. 12 regarding identity theft. During the interview on “Behind the Headlines” on Radio America, hosted by Jane Silk, Donovan also noted NAFCU’s support of the Fair Accurate Credit Transactions Act (H.R. 2622), which includes numerous consumer protection provisions for identity theft victims. Actor Jerry Orbach, possibly best known for his role on NBC’s Law & Order, has been lined up as spokesman for the campaign and will appear in a nationally distributed public service announcement. Other factions of the consumer awareness campaign on identity theft include advertisements in newspapers in 17 cities where complaints are highest, direct mailings of three million pieces with prevention tips to households in the top 10 states where identity theft is most prevalent, and a 12-minute video, “Identity Crisis,” to be distributed nationwide to consumer groups, financial institutions, and police departments. “The goal of this project is to arm people with information that will help them fight back against identity thieves and decrease the number of identity theft victims throughout the country,” Heath said. He recommends the following tips to prevent individuals from becoming victims of identity crimes: * Don’t leave mail in mailbox overnight or on weekends. * Deposit mail in U.S. Postal Service collection boxes. * Tear up or shred unwanted documents that contain personal information. * Review your consumer credit report annually. The Postal Inspection Service is working with members of the Financial Industry Mail Security Initiative, which is comprised of representatives from financial institutions, law enforcement agents, prosecutors, vendors, and postal inspectors. FIMSI meets semi-annually to discuss credit card problems, identity theft, crime trends, and solutions. In an ironic twist, the funding for the consumer education campaign on identity theft is from money seized from fraud investigations through the Postal Inspection Service’s Consumer Fraud Fund. Because it was impossible to identify the victims of the scheme, the Postal Inspection Service established the fund. [email protected]

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