State Spotlight

The state of California has more than 250 agencies, departments, commissions, and boards, many of which provide useful information and living-strategies to the people of California. The agencies may be untapped resources for librarians fielding patron questions.

To help our readers maneuver around the state of California’s services, we are making “State Spotlight” a regular feature in CSL Connection. In each issue, the “Spotlight” will highlight one service-based agency whose web-links, toll-free phone numbers, information charts, and referrals inform the general public.

 

Department of Consumer Affairs-Office of Privacy Protection

In today’s digital culture, our numbers–birth date, drivers license, social security and so on–have evolved into maps to our assets and credit, to where we live and work–to who we are.

Luckily, California is the first state to have an agency dedicated to promoting and protecting the privacy rights of consumers. The Office of Privacy Protection, within the Department of Consumer Affairs, offers members of the public practical information on how to protect their privacy.

 

Answers to Frightening Questions

The Office of Privacy Protection (OPP) is, according to Chief Joanne McNabb, one of the only places in California that consumers can go for help and answers about identity theft, unwanted phone calls, emails and mail, privacy practices, and financial and medical privacy.

Sixty percent of the people who call the OPP’s toll-free number [(866) 785-9663] want to know how stop criminals from opening credit in their name. The OPP’s callers’ wallets have been stolen or they have replied to a “phishing” email, phony “alerts” from banks asking to verify account data. Fifteen percent of the Office’s callers have already been victimized.

OPP staff gives callers steps such as alerting people of fraud on credit files, freezing files and contacting creditors and law enforcement, to protect themselves. “Identity theft is an indiscriminate crime,” McNabb says. “It can affect old, young, people with good credit and bad credit–anyone with a Social Security number.” McNabb’s biggest tip to consumers is “Don’t give out personal information unless you initiated the contact.”

 

Print-out Tip Sheets

Visitors who go to the OPP site will find “Consumer Information “ sheets. Libraries can use the sheets as brochures, some of which are available in multiple languages. The “Consumer Information “ sheets are: Your Financial Privacy, Identity Theft Victim Check List; Your Social Security Number: Controlling the Key to Identity Theft; Leave Me Alone: How to Slow the Flow of Unwanted Communications; How to Read a Privacy Policy; Your Patient Privacy Rights-A Consumer Guide to Health Information Privacy in California; How to Use the California Identity Theft Registry-A Guide for Victims of "Criminal" Identity Theft; Protecting Your Child's Privacy Online; How to "Freeze" Your Credit Files.

For more information, contact the Office of Privacy Protection at (866) 785-9663 or email privacy@dca.ca.gov.

 

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