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How about spring cleaning?

Kaye Ferry

I’m going to finish up on identity theft, but first I have a question, and I wish somebody would answer it this time. Just what is it that the own of Vail doesn’t understand about the business of doing business? Maybe asking what they do understand would be the shorter answer.Or are they so engrossed with daily minutia that they have blinkers on about what makes this town run, namely sales tax dollars?No secret here, business hasn’t exactly been booming since the mountain closed. But the TEVA games started the summer season, the weather has finally decided to behave like summer, and a few guests are wandering in, but mostly on the weekends.So why would the town schedule the cleaning of the village transportation center steps and decks on a Friday? But it gets worse. They used a solution so toxic that the fire chief said no one should be in the area for at least four hours. So the information booth had to close.Of course, no town official had the sense to tell anyone ahead of time. In fact, they started on Thursday and my staff continued to work, not knowing they were in danger, even though the fumes were atrocious. The tourists were clueless, also. They wandered around because access to the bathrooms, restaurant and town office was disrupted because most of the stairs and the door on that level were roped off with no signage. You simply had to know to go up an outside flight of stairs to get into the building in order to go down an inside flight of stairs to reach those areas.This is reminiscent of the line-painting scenario last summer, when the parking garage was closed most of two days in July to paint new lines between the parking spaces. When are we going to learn? What’s wrong with April or May? Or Monday through Thursday? And why are we using toxic materials in a public plaza? Or at least notify employees? How about guests? Are we trying to get sued? Who is going to see that stupid decisions like this don’t continue to disrupt business that is already tenuous? Is any one in charge?Someone said to me they didn’t know if they were madder at the timing, the toxicity or lack of notice. Quite frankly, I think it’s a three-way dead heat.So, back to identity theft. It’s the fastest-growing crime in America with millions of cases reported each year. It occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.In 2005, more than $680 million in fraud losses were reported. And Colorado has been a haven, with 4,535 residents reporting incidents in that same year because up until this legislative session, Colorado was one of two states that didn’t consider it a crime. Thieves can get your private information from a variety of sources. They search trash, change your address so account info is re-routed to them, pose as a legitimate business and ask for verification of key facts, steal and buy records. The reality is that their sources are endless. And it doesn’t help when things happen like the Denver fiasco that was revealed last week where records of 150,000 registered voters were lost during a move.There are several things you can do to protect yourself ,which usually are defined as the three D’s: deter, detect and defend. Deter by safeguarding your information. Detect by routinely monitoring your financial records. Defend by reporting the problem as soon as you become suspicious.Be particularly cautious with your Social Security number. Pick up credit card receipts. Carefully store your bills. Shred unsolicited requests, credit card bills and bank statements. Be watchful at ATMs. Use only a locked box for your mail, both in and out. Don’t respond to any telephone requests for donations. Or provide any personal info to callers claiming to represent your bank or creditors. And the same applies to e-mail requests. Check your credit reports at least once a year.Once you’ve become a victim, you’ll spend an average of $1,400, 600 hours and up to two years to clear your name.Credit card fraud is the most common. If you report your suspicions before a card is used, you have no liability. If the report is made after the card is used, your maximum liability is $50 per card.But say you’ve experienced a problem, what then?1. Notify one of the credit bureaus. In the past you had to notify all three. But now, if you tell one, they pass it along. I know. I did it last week and they’ll put a “security alert” on your accounts. The big three are: Experian (fraud and credit report 888-397-3742); Equifax (fraud 800-525-6285, credit report 800-685-1111); TransUnion (fraud 800-680-7289, credit report 800-916-8800).2. Review your credit report.3. File a police report.4. Close accounts you suspect have been accessed.5. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338.6. If collection agencies contact you, tell them you are not liable. Get their name etc. Fill out the necessary paperwork or refer them to the FTC report. Ask them to confirm your conversation in writing.7. Have your bank notify Chex System. Close your bank/ATM accounts and open others with new passwords. DO NOT use your mother’s maiden name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc. Use random words and numbers and memorize them.8. Notify the Postal Service if you suspect your mail has been tampered with.9. Change your Social Securitynumber at 800-269-0271.10. Change your driver’s license.There may be more, but this is a good start. Yet remember, a good offense is always the best defense. Be proactive in protecting yourself. Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Columnists” or search for keyword “ferry.” Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail, Colorado


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