Consumer protection week begins Feb. 3

Consumer protection week begins Feb. 3 The Postal Inspection Service and the Consumer Advocate's Office have joined other federal, state and local organizations, as well as national advocacy groups to launch the fifth annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW).

The U.S. Postal Service has taken this year's subject, Information Security, one step further by sending consumers the message, "Identity Theft � Safeguard Your Personal Information." This year's national campaign focuses on educating consumers about identity theft and information security as well as providing tips to prevent consumers from becoming potential victims. Every year, thousands of people and businesses are victimized by identity theft schemes. February 3-8 has been designated as the official week dedicated to promote consumer protection awareness efforts.

While it is impossible for consumers to protect themselves from every swindler, there are actions that can be taken to substantially minimize the risk of identity theft. Consumers can take the following steps.


* Promptly remove all mail from the mailbox after delivery.


* Never give personal information over the telephone, such as Social Security number, date of birth, mother's maiden name, credit card number, or bank personal identification number (PIN) code, unless you initiated the phone call.


* Shred pre-approved credit card applications, credit card receipts, bills, and other financial information you don't want before disposing in the trash or recycling bin.


* Order a recent credit card report from the three major credit bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.


* Sign all new credit cards immediately upon receipt.


* Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately.


* Use caution when you disclose account numbers, credit card numbers, or other personal financial data on any Web site or online service location unless you receive a secured authentication key from the provider.

"Information Security," a significant and evolving issue for consumers, was designated as this year's National Consumer Protection Week leading topic by the partnering organizations. Security is at the heart of the Postal Service brand. Over its 226-year history, the United States Postal Service has developed a tradition of trust, valued by the American people, by delivering the mail with the highest levels of privacy and integrity.

For additional information, you can also visit the Postal Inspection Service Web site at www.usps.com/postalinspectors. For more information about Consumer Protection Week, visit the NCPW Web site at www.consumer.gov/ncpw.

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