For Immediate Release - February 07, 2005

Massachusetts Consumer Affairs Director And The National Notary Association Team To Fight Identity Theft During National Consumer Protection Week

State's 140,000 Notaries are also on the "front lines of this battle" against identity theft

(Los Angeles, California) - Beth Lindstrom, Director of the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, joins with the National Notary Association (NNA) in an effort to educate the public on identity theft and the largely overlooked role that Notaries Public play in the fight against this insidious and rising crime.

This partnership coincides with the seventh annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), February 6-12, 2005, which highlights consumer protection and education efforts around the country. This year's theme, "Identity Theft: When Fact Becomes Fiction," focuses on minimizing the risk of identity theft, the fastest growing crime in the United States.

The nation's 4.5 million Notaries detect and deter fraud every day as they notarize documents used to buy or sell a home, refinance a mortgage, grant powers of attorney, and perform hundreds of other sensitive transactions.

In an article published this month in The Massachusetts Notary Bulletin, an NNA publication sent to Association member Notaries in Massachusetts, Director Lindstrom explained the gravity of the issue and the essential role Notaries play in protecting the public from identity theft and fraud.

"The fight against ID theft will be ongoing and will require constant monitoring as more and more sophisticated tactics emerge on pace with technological advances," said Lindstrom. "Notaries are also on the front lines of this battle and we appreciate their support."

The Director went on to explain recent changes in the issuing of Massachusetts driver's licenses, the most common form of identification used in notarizations in the state. Beginning in October 2004, Massachusetts drivers who renew their license on-line no longer have the option of using their Social Security numbers as their driver's license number. On-line renewals now default to a random nine-digit number beginning with the letter "S". Just under half of the state's drivers are still using their Social Security numbers and Lindstrom is encouraging them to make the switch to close down one of the key "avenue(s) for fraud."

"Notaries protect identity and property rights and are an irreplaceable safeguard for the public interest," remarked NNA Executive Director Timothy S. Reiniger. "Director Lindstrom recognizes this critical role Notaries play in fighting identity theft and the NNA is pleased to work with her to educate the public on the important issue.

"America's Notaries are an effective resource available for immediate deployment in the war against all types of document fraud," continued Reiniger. "As a leader in educating Notaries and the public on the issue of identity theft, the NNA is pleased to participate in National Consumer Protection Week."

About the NNA

The National Notary Association has been the nation's professional Notary organization since 1957 and is committed to the development of Notaries throughout the United States by providing education, support and advocacy. Understanding the need for greater awareness of the essential role each Notary Public plays, the NNA is dedicated to educating lawmakers, businesses, state officials, and the general public on the Notary's expanding role in fraud prevention and Homeland Security issues.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently asked the NNA to educate FBI field agents on the role of the Notary in deterring and detecting fraud and identity crimes.

The NNA has also teamed with various state officials in their on-going efforts to inform the public of steps to prevent identity theft, including Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortés, and former Attorney General and current United States Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado.

For more information about the NNA, please visit www.NationalNotary.org

About National Consumer Protection Week

Additional organizers of this year's NCPW are the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Information Center (FCIC), the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), U.S. Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA), the California Office of Privacy Protection, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, the National Consumers League (NCL), AARP, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Call for Action, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

For more information about NCPW, please visit www.consumer.gov/ncpw

The NNA endorses these five basic steps to help prevent identity theft:

  1. Beware of calls asking for personal information . Never provide personal identifying or financial information over the telephone when you do not initiate the call.
  2. Watch out for "contests." Never provide any personal information over the telephone to anyone claiming to represent a contest or sweepstakes.
  3. Keep your Social Security number private . Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks, driver's license or other financial documents.
  4. Watch for phony e-mails . Never respond to e-mail or "pop-up" messages on your computer claiming some problem with a credit card, Internet, or other account.
  5. Buy a shredder . Purchase a simple "cross-cut" shredder (the kind that creates confetti, not the long strips) and get in the habit of shredding all personal or financial documents you intend to discard before placing them in the trash.