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HARRISBURG (Oct. 24, 2006) — The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) is offering a free consumer education brochure targeted to reduce America’s fastest growing crime – identity theft. Nearly 10 million Americans were victims of identity theft during the last year alone.

“Many of us will increase our use of credit cards and automatic teller machines during the upcoming busy holiday season, so now is a good time to remind ourselves to be smart consumers,” said PBA President Kenneth J. Horoho Jr. “Identity theft can happen to anyone, anywhere, but a few simple precautions can reduce the odds of becoming an identity theft victim during the holidays and throughout the year.”

Identity thieves only need a few critical pieces of personal information to “steal” someone else’s identity and to begin using their victim’s financial accounts and setting up new ones in their victim’s name.

“When you are out and about, keep personal financial information as private as you can,” said Alexis Barbieri, executive deputy attorney general, who oversees the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s Public Protection Division. “Remain mindful of the sophisticated eavesdroppers who may watch over your shoulders when you are entering a personal identification number, known as your PIN, at an automatic teller machine. Be sure to take deposit and withdraw receipts generated by the ATM with you because those slips contain information that thieves can use to steal your identity. Also, don’t leave your Social Security number in your wallet. That number is the key to unlocking the doors to most of your personal and financial information.”

If you think you are an identity theft victim, take immediate action by contacting your banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions.

Also contact one of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian or Trans Union. Toll-free telephone numbers for these credit bureaus as well as other identity fraud prevention and reporting tips are listed in the PBA brochure. To receive a free copy of the brochure by mail, contact the PBA’s toll-free identity theft prevention hotline at 1-888-799-4557. The brochure also is available on the PBA’s Web site at www.pabar.org.

The identity theft prevention campaign is a project of the PBA Client and Community Relations Committee and is funded through a grant from the Pennsylvania Bar Insurance Trust.

Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association exists to promote justice, professional excellence and respect of the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 29,000 lawyers who are members of the association.