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FTC blog posts don’t usually come with parental advisory notices, but in the case of Craig Brittain and his now-defunct revenge porn website, isanybodydown.com, we might need to make an exception. Because, in case you missed it: revenge porn.FTC blog posts don’t usually come with parental advisory notices, but in the case of Craig Brittain and his now-defunct revenge porn website, isanybodydown.com, we might need to make an exception. Because, in case you missed it: revenge porn. According to the FTC, Brittain solicited sexually explicit pictures to post on the site:
  • He asked people to send a picture of someone else, including their date of birth, town, state, phone number, and Facebook profile – and then he posted it all on the website.
  • He posed as a woman on Craigslist and convinced women to send him pictures of themselves – and then he posted those pictures.
  • He set up a “bounty” system, where anyone could ask others to find pictures of a specific person, in exchange for a reward of $100 or more.
All of the pictures and information were searchable online – and visitors also could post comments about the pictures. In fact, the “higher level of hatred” was one of the selling points of his website. You can imagine the impact on the people whose pictures appeared on the site – anything from getting unwanted contact from strangers, to worry about getting or losing jobs. But Brittain offered a “solution” to this: for $250, someone could have pictures removed by using the “Takedown Hammer” service offered by the site. According to the FTC, Brittain posed as an attorney, operating this service. So why did the FTC wade into this seamy underbelly of the online world? Because Brittain’s actions violated Section 5 of the FTC Act. The settlement announced today means that Brittain has to destroy the images and information from the site. In the future, he can’t post naked pictures online unless the person in the picture consents in writing, and he can’t lie – including about who he is or who’s giving him content for a website. But there’s also a warning here for other revenge porn websites with similar practices: cut it out. __________________ The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace.

Results of Consumer Data Privacy Survey Reveal Critical Need for All Digital Citizens to Participate in Data Privacy Day

Today, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) launches Data Privacy Day with the release of “Perceptions of Privacy Online and in the Digitally Connected World,” an extensive, national, two-phase survey of American adults analyzing consumer perceptions of online privacy as well as the need for companies to implement strong data stewardship.

Poll results indicate that 84% of Americans feel a “tremendous amount” of personal responsibility

in protecting their online privacy but a lack of information about how their data is collected and shared

by others prevents them from taking action.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2015 - Today, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) launches Data Privacy Day with the release of “Perceptions of Privacy Online and in the Digitally Connected World,” an extensive, national, two-phase survey of American adults analyzing consumer perceptions of online privacy as well as the need for companies to implement strong data stewardship. NCSA, the nation’s leading non-profit promoting cyber safety awareness and online privacy protection, assumes a leadership role in the United States for Day Privacy Day, which is an annual, international effort centered on "Respecting Privacy, Safeguarding Data and Enabling Trust.” Now in its eighth year, the day aims to help consumers understand how to protect their online information and encourage businesses to be more transparent in how they collect and use the data.

“The first phase of this highly comprehensive study dug deep into consumer attitudes toward privacy. Then, based on the research findings, a group of privacy experts put the results into action by developing and testing harmonized messaging that would resonate with consumers and inspire them to take simple, concrete steps to protect their data and manage their privacy,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of NCSA. “In short, what this study shows is that Americans care deeply about their privacy. While a great knowledge gap exists about how information is collected and how technologies interact, businesses can build consumer trust by being clear about data collection and use. As we become more and more reliant on technology, it is crucial to effectively educate everyone about how to be safer and more secure online.”

Conducted by Heart+Mind Strategies, the survey was created by NCSA and a Privacy Messaging Development Committee comprised of 35+ members of civil-society, non-profits, government and industry. A snapshot of key study findings includes:   

Top Online Privacy Concerns

  • Americans ranked "Having personal information lost or stolen," "Having your financial information lost or stolen" and "Not knowing what information is being collected about you or how it is being used" as top concerns.
  • 87% of individuals are either somewhat or very concerned that their information is shared with another party without their knowledge or consent.
  • Two-thirds of Americans would accept less personalized content during their online experience, including fewer discounts, in order to keep their personal information private.

Notable Consumer Behavior

  • The majority of consumers report taking certain measures to protect their personal information.
    • The most common are keeping passwords strong, only utilizing trusted vendors and keeping software updated.
    • When it comes to steps that are not taken, consumers generally aren’t sure how or why the steps should be taken or that they don’t make a difference and their personal information could still be compromised.
  • Consumers are uninformed, in part, because they don’t understand what information is being collected about them, how it’s being used or with whom it is shared and, therefore, don’t know how to protect themselves.
  • 49% of individuals are not familiar with how or why to set their Internet browser to the “do not track” mode. 

Who Consumers Trust

  • The public is most comfortable with family, friends and their health insurance provider having access to their personal information.
  • Levels of trust vary greatly and health insurance providers and financial institutions are more trusted than not. Consumers were asked to rate institutions by how well they thought the institutions would responsibly handle their information on a scale from 1 to 100 ‒ 100 being most trusted. 
    • Their health insurance provider and banking or investment companies ranked as the most trusted entities and were rated at 56 and 57 respectively. This indicates they are more trusted than not, and rank much higher than advertisers at 22 and companies who collect and sell personal information at 15.
    • Overall, early adopters of technology are generally more trusting of all entities.

What’s Important to Protect

  • The public is least comfortable providing Social Security numbers, list of contacts and email content when asked.
  • The public is least comfortable with the following information being collected: Social Security numbers, credit card information and email content. Younger adults are more concerned about their list of contacts being shared than are middle age and older adults.
  • When asked what information is of most value to companies and third parties, respondents indicated personal photos/videos while driving habits were perceived as least valuable to companies or third parties.

For more information on the survey’s findings, please visit http://staysafeonline.org/download/datasets/12472/DPD%20Privacy%20Research%20Results%20Summary%20v3.pdf.

Based on the first phase results, the multi-stakeholder group also created 10 privacy messages around knowledge, trust and impact of reputation/sharing. The comparison of personal information to money resonated as the single most important message. The respondents reported that the following messages were “Important to me,” “get my attention,” “make me want to learn more” and “make me want to take action”: 

  • Personal information is like money – Value it. Protect it.
  • Share with care – what you post can last a lifetime.
  • STOP.THINK.CONNECT. Personal information is important to protect.

On a parallel track, the multi-stake holder group also developed research-based tips to encourage and motivate consumers to consider the privacy implications of their online actions for themselves and others. To learn more, visit www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/privacy-tips.

DPD 2015 is sponsored by a host of digital industry leaders including Ghostery, Intel and ESET. This year, more than 300 champions – a designation for businesses, nonprofits and organizations such as ADP, the Center for Internet Security, EDUCAUSE, Fraud.org, Symantec, Twitter and the University of Virginia – have pledged their support and commitment to respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust throughout the year. Please visit NCSA’s Data Privacy Day Champions page (http://www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/champions/all-champions/) to learn more. In addition, a variety of business-focused events, webinars and informational “happy hours” will take place across the country to promote DPD. Visit http://www.staysafeonline.org/data-privacy-day/events/ for a complete listing.

So that critical information about data protection is delivered to mainstream audiences, NCSA has teamed with various groups to host privacy events ‒ open to the general public ‒ in several cities nationwide and virtually. Live events taking place in honor of Data Privacy Day will be held in Atlanta, San Francisco and San Diego.

NCSA, the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing and the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business will broadcast Data Privacy Day Atlanta: Health Privacy in a Fully Connected World event live online for the world to watch. The event will be made available via NCSA’s Data Privacy Day Livestream page, http://new.livestream.com/NCSA/dataprivacyday, on January 28, 2015 from 1:30 p.m. ET. until 4:45 p.m. ET.

For a full list of events taking place for Data Privacy Day in the United States, visit http://www.staysafeonline.org/about-us/events/.

Together with the European Data Protection Supervisor and Intel Corporation, NCSA is also hosting a trans-Atlantic roundtable discussion on shared privacy and data protection opportunities and goals at the Office of the European Data Protection Supervisor in Brussels. Speakers will include European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli; Ted Dean, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services, International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce; and Paula Bruening, Senior Counsel, Global Privacy Policy, Intel Corporation.

For more on how to be a privacy pro, view NCSA’s “privacy checkup” online resource page to learn how to change the privacy and security settings for your online devices and accounts. Do you need to brush up on how to better protect your online information? Take the NCSA and SpiderOak My Privacy IQ quiz at http://myprivacyiq.com/. Visit the Privacy Library for additional resources about privacy.

About the Phase I National Survey    

Heart+Mind Strategies conducted the national survey online with 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and up between December 27, 2013 ‒ January 5, 2014. The poll was part of an extensive analysis on the perceptions of online privacy for NCSA. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation rather than a probability sample, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, and measurement error.

About the Phase II National Survey                      

Heart+Mind Strategies conducted the national survey online with 501 U.S. adults ages 18 and up between April 7-9, 2014. The poll was part of an extensive evaluation of messaging surrounding online privacy for NCSA. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation rather than a probability sample, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, and measurement error.

About Data Privacy Day

Led by the National Cyber Security Alliance, Data Privacy Day began in the United States and Canada in January 2008 as an extension of the Data Protection Day celebration in Europe. The Day commemorates the 1981 signing of Convention 108 – the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection. On January 27, 2014, the 113th U.S. Congress adopted S. Res. 337, a nonbinding resolution expressing support for the designation of January 28 as "National Data Privacy Day." Ghostery is the Leading Sponsor of Data Privacy Day while ESET and Intel are Contributing Sponsors. Participating Sponsors are Lockheed MartinMerckMorrison & Foerster and Alston & Bird. Small Business Sponsors include the Churchill Club, the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing, the Georgia Tech Scheller College of BusinessPrivacy Ref LLCPRIVATE WiFiReputation.comSnoopWall and Golden Frog

About The National Cyber Security Alliance 

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) is the nation's leading nonprofit public-private partnership promoting the safe and secure use of the Internet. Working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), private sector sponsors and non-profit collaborators to promote cybersecurity awareness, NCSA board members include representatives from ADP, AT&T, Bank of America, Comcast Corporation, EMC Corporation, ESET, Facebook, Google, Intel, McAfee, Microsoft, Raytheon, Symantec, Verizon and Visa. Through collaboration with the government, corporate, non-profit and academic sectors, NCSA’s mission is to educate and empower a digital citizenry to use the Internet securely and safely, protect themselves and the technology they use, and protect the digital assets we all share. For more information on NCSA please visit http://www.staysafeonline.org/about-us/overview/.

Media Contact:

Tola St. Matthew-Daniel

Thatcher+Co.

917-818-6196

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Top scams of 2014 reveals phantom debt scams on the rise

Worry about consumers’ vulnerability to fraud attacks has never been so great, with new headlines about the growing millions of Americans whose personal information has been stolen appearing every day. With fraud vulnerability on the minds of many, the experts at the National Consumers League are releasing a report about scam trends from 2014—some good, some bad, and with new warnings for avoiding fraud.Worry about consumers’ vulnerability to fraud attacks has never been so great, with new headlines about the growing millions of Americans whose personal information has been stolen appearing every day. With fraud vulnerability on the minds of many, the experts at the National Consumers League are releasing a report about scam trends from 2014—some good, some bad, and with new warnings for avoiding fraud. Based on an analysis of more than 10,000 consumer complaints submitted in 2014, NCL is warning consumers to be on the lookout for so-called “refund and recovery” scams, also known as “phantom debt” scams. The predominant version of the “refund and recovery” scams involved a fraudster contacting consumers claiming to be collecting unpaid debts. If consumers questioned the debt, they reported frequently being threatened with jail time, legal action, or other consequences. In 2013, this was the fastest-growing type of telemarketing scam reported to NCL’s Fraud.org campaign. This trend continued in 2014, as the “refund and recovery” scams jumped by 6.23 percentage points, rising to #4 on the overall complaint list. Fake check scams, which were at the top of the Top Ten Scams list in 2013, dropped to the #3 spot in 2014, down more than 7 percentage points. Topping the list in 2014 were two other perennially frequent frauds—Internet merchandise scams and bogus prizes/sweepstakes scams, ranked #1 and #2 respectively. “Fraud remains one of the most pernicious threats facing consumers today,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “We are particularly concerned about scammers increasingly relying on the ‘old-fashioned’ telephone as a way to reach millions of potentially vulnerable consumers.” The telephone was reported by 42.85% of complainants as the way that they were first contacted by a scammer, ahead of the Web (30.97%), email (15.71%) and postal mail (6.92%). The telephone was the top method of first contact in 2013 and increased even more in 2014 (6.49 percentage point increase). A positive trend in the 2014 report is the shift in how victims reported sending money to con artists. Previously, wire transfer had been the most popular payment method reported to Fraud.org. In 2014, nearly half (48%) of all victims reported paying by credit card when they lost money to a scam—continuing a trend first noted in 2013 (35%). Victims who pay with credit cards can more easily recover lost funds than those who pay via wire transfer service when they promptly report the suspicious charges to their banks or credit card companies. “Credit card transactions are a safer way for consumers to pay for products since they can dispute fraudulent charges with their credit card company,” said John Breyault, NCL Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “Unfortunately, when a fraud victim sends money via wire transfer or prepaid debit card, the chances of getting their money back are much lower.” Read the full 2014 top ten scams report here (PDF). _________________ Alliance Against Fraud and Fraud.org are projects of the National Consumers League (NCL), a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. Fraud.org is the product of more than two decades of consumer education and advocacy related to Internet and telemarketing fraud prevention.

Nearly Twenty Percent of Consumers Have Unpaid Medical Bills On Their Credit Report

A new study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shows that nearly 43 million American consumers have unpaid medical bills on their credit reports. These unpaid bills are damaging credit and indicate that many consumers are confused about how much they owe and what their responsibilities are when they receive medical invoices.A new study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) shows that nearly 43 million American consumers have unpaid medical bills on their credit reports. These unpaid bills are damaging credit and indicate that many consumers are confused about how much they owe and what their responsibilities are when they receive medical invoices. Interestingly, the report shows that roughly half of those with unpaid medical debts have no other form of debt. This indicates a high rate of confusion on the part of those receiving medical bills. Hospital and doctor billing systems tend to generate invoices which are difficult to read. This coupled with the fact that recipients of these bills may simply expect their insurance coverage to make payment, are leading consumers to make mistakes with regard to their medical debts. The average amount of unpaid medical debt for those with no other forms of debt is $1,766. For those with both unpaid medical and other debts such as credit cards, the average amount owed is $5,638. The responsibility for making sure that these debts get paid is ultimately up to the consumer. ACCESS advises that consumers who receive an invoice for medical debt do the following if they are unsure what their responsibilities are:
  1.  Contact the hospital/doctor's billing department immediately. Ask if the invoice has been submitted to your insurance company. If not, ask that it be submitted. If it has been submitted, ask when you can expect the matter to be resolved. If you are not insured and can't afford to pay in full, ask them to work out a payment plan with you.
  2. Review any statements you receive from your insurance company. Make sure that any doctor or hospital payments are correct.
  3. If you receive a second invoice from the hospital/doctor, call them again. Ask them to give you a status on any communications they have had with your insurer.
One final note here. Most insurance plans have already negotiated rates for services with the doctors in their network. Nevertheless, many doctors and hospitals will attempt to bill you individually for more than the negotiated rates. Simply put, this is fraud and it can usually be taken care of with a couple of phone calls. The first call is to the doctor's office. Tell them that your insurance policy has negotiated the rate and that since the doctor is in your network he/she is obligated to take that rate. If that doesn't take care of the issue, then you need to call your insurance company and file a complaint against the doctor. _______________ Jim Malmberg, ACCESS, American Consumer Credit Education Support Services, is a non-profit, tax exempt 501(c)(3) consumer advocacy group whose primary purpose is to disseminate credit education information and assistance to the general public, visit www.GuardMyCreditFile.org