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Book Review:
"50 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Credit" Fraud Protection Primer for Consumers

"50 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Credit" Everything You Need to Know About Identity Theft, Credit Cards, Credit Repair, and Credit Reports

By Steve Weisman
Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005
Paperback, 232 pages
ISBN 0-13-146759-X

This book may scare the hell out of you, and rightfully so," writes Steve Weisman. "It explains just how vulnerable we all are in the world of identity theft and credit."

For consumers, these are ominous words. The card Associations and payment networks have motivated and encouraged them to participate in various electronic systems and assured them that their personal financial information is safe.

Yet despite the best efforts of the payments industry, including processors, equipment manufacturers, software developers and card Associations, instances of identity theft, phishing and credit card scams are on the rise.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), nearly 650,000 Americans fell victim to identity theft in 2004. Credit card fraud was still the most common form of reported identity theft, the FTC said, costing consumers about $547 million last year alone.

Consumers have to wonder whether their financial information is secure, and what measures their banks and credit card companies are taking to keep them safe. They've been invited to this big party, so shouldn't they be aware of the house rules?

Weisman addresses those issues, and from a consumer standpoint, provides insightful explanations of the processes involved and suggestions for ways to conduct personal business safely. This might be unfamiliar territory for many consumers.

He presents explanations of biometrics and other technologies used in payments; federal and state government efforts to legislate against fraud and identity theft; the differences in credit card programs and what all that fine print in the card disclaimers means; and credit scoring, reporting and repair.

He also offers carefully worded form letters and suggestions for dealing with creditors and finance companies.

Weisman is a syndicated print and broadcast journalist who reports on legal and personal finance issues.

In "50 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Credit," he explains why people should be extremely careful about protecting their personal financial information.

He details a variety of payment mechanisms and where holes in the systems create vulnerabilities so that consumers can arm themselves against intrusions.

Clearly, Weisman wrote this book with consumers in mind. People working in payments need to wonder: If consumers don't feel secure about the systems they use for commerce, how much will they use them?

Issues around fraud protection and risk management have become integral to the payments industry; it's worth considering that many consumers are now also aware of these very real concerns.

The book "50 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Credit" might serve as an excellent investment on both a personal and a professional level.

Do professionals in the payments industry easily grasp and explain to customers the complex issues involved in fraud protection, including compliance regulations and security?

Are merchants savvy enough? Would they benefit from learning more? This book is a practical gift for clients, friends, relatives or even a useful addition to your own bookshelf.

For payment professionals, the level of information in this book is probably basic. But reviewing the issues from a different angle could provide refreshing insight into how the true end-users of the systems, products and solutions this industry promotes might lead to a more consumer friendly way of doing business.

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