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Helping Customers with Privacy

Service matters. It is how banks compete. Service also counts for CRA purposes. So why not take advantage of some free resources and provide information and service that your customers want and need?

The Federal Trade Commission maintains a privacy website for consumer protection. It is helpful, it is comprehensive, and it is free. There is a lot of information that a bank can download and use to provide information to its customers. Just go to the FTC's website at and click on the privacy icon. This takes you immediately to a rich resource of consumer protection information.

Identity theft is a popular topic right now and the FTC site has all kinds of information to help consumers. That particular site has about 21 "pages" of information. There are descriptions of how identity theft occurs, including story clips designed to grab attention and show how this could happen to you.

There is advice on ways consumers can minimize their own risk. This includes tips about how to use and protect information and when to avoid sharing information. There is even advice on when to give out a Social Security Number and questions to ask when someone asks for the number, including how it will be used.

Finally, there is a list of resources on privacy, including state and federal laws. There is a list of states that have privacy laws, and information about federal laws. Consumers can also find the names, web sites, toll free numbers, and mailing addresses of the major credit bureaus.

How to Use It
One method for using this information would be to maintain a privacy board in the lobby with information and take-ones that are updated on a regular basis, such as monthly. This would encourage customers to turn to the bank for information and advice. The credit bureau numbers and addresses would make a useful handout.

Another approach would be to include a tip on privacy protection in monthly statements. A website address or single statement of advice could be printed on the statement and involve no extra printing.

Copyright © 2000 Compliance Action. Originally appeared in Compliance Action, Vol. 4, No. 17 & 18, 1/00

First published on 01/01/2000

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