"The most common characteristic of all police states is intimidation by surveillance. Citizens know they are being watched and overheard. Their mail is being examined. Their homes can be invaded." ~ Vance Packard
An Appeal to STR Readers
Exclusive to STR
Can the readers of STR help out a friend of mine with an idea he has?
My friend Nicholas has an idea for a business that he describes as a 'consumer-friendly credit reporting agency' that he believes will eliminate the opportunity for the fraud and theft that goes by the general name of identity theft. This is where someone masquerading as you uses your existing credit cards or, using your personal information, applies for loans or new credit, spends the money, and sticks you with the bill.
You are then faced with hours upon hours on the phone and the out of pocket expenses to straighten out this mess that you had absolutely nothing to do with. Just think of how you would prove you are you to the defrauded companies who are trying to collect, to your credit card issuer, to your bank, and especially the three credit bureaus who will list the new debts as negative information on your credit report!
With over 900 million credit cards in circulation in the U.S. , and 50 million credit card transactions a day, it's not surprising that billions of dollars are lost to all types of credit card theft and identity fraud each year.
Please keep reading for a brief description of the project and what Nick hopes to do. He's worked hard to put up a good site on the problem of identity theft and what you can do about it now (with a little help from me). The site is packed with really useful free information you can put into practice today, with more info and features hopefully to come in the near future.
I'm asking my fellow Root-Strikers if they would be willing to help out Nick by buying a shirt, and help get this project going. Part of the price for each T-shirt will be donated to STR . By helping out with this project, you can help support STR and you get a nice anti-state T-shirt, too.
Please read this letter from Nicholas for more details on the project and the T-Shirts.
Can You Help With This Project?
I'm trying to do something a bit unusual. I have an idea for a way to eliminate identity theft and I'm going to try and launch it as a business, but first I've put together an information website on the problem and what can be done now.
My idea is to create a sort of anti-credit bureau, where every consumer would have 24/7 access to their own personal credit information file, just like we do with our bank account information. Currently, the only way you can know what is in your credit report, the information about you all sorts of businesses use everyday, is to order the free copy the U.S. government requires the credit bureaus provide to you once a year. Or pay anywhere from $10 to $15 (each!) for a copy of your report from each of the three credit bureaus.
You should be able to access your credit report any time you needed to. It's your information (and if you could, maybe your credit report wouldn't be riddled with errors).
With the help of others, I hope to develop a new business that would give consumers--you and me--direct control over who has access to our credit information, provide genuinely free identity theft prevention, and empower us--the customer!
I think I've even come up with a good marketing slogan. Please email me and let me know what you think about the motto 'Ethical Marketing.'
With this idea, you would be able to, without charge
prevent unauthorized credit approvals
prevent new credit pre-approvals
grant permission to marketers only after being first asked for permission.
Being able to do this would eliminate all opportunities for someone to steal your identity and load you up with debt. I think I've come up with a solution that intercepts fraud at the point of sale, both online and offline, and will allow vendors to offer this as a free service to their customers. As a business, I think the idea can support 4 distinct revenue generating services (just in case the free identity theft prevention alone doesn't catch on with consumers and businesses). These are
Annual membership fees from commercial subscribers
Subscription fees from businesses for the Identity Theft Prevention service
Fees from facilitating and processing online and offline payments
Fees for providing marketing analysis (by mining the customer account information from subscribing companies to spot potential alliances for them with non-competing businesses) and conducting marketing campaigns for subscribing businesses.
I had the idea to raise funds to develop the info site further from where it is now with more information, news updates and case studies and other features by selling a line of slogan T-shirts. Then from there, move to the stage two phase with the actual business that should give to individual consumers, for free, control over how their personal info is used.
My idea is to sell a limited number of T-shirts with the slogan across the front "I Am Not A Number!" I know, hardly original, but it matches the general spirit of the info site and the eventual business that we're more than just resources for companies to buy and sell info about.
I hope that by telling the story of the idea and by bundling together some additional benefits with the shirts, which might have an appeal on their own (I hope!), I can sell enough of them to help get this idea going.
I have this crazy goal of selling 2,000 T-Shirts to raise the money to expand the info site and cover the initial expenses of developing and proceeding to the next step.
Each shirt comes with 3 added benefits:
10% of the price of each shirt will be donated to STR for letting me promote this idea on STR .
Each shirt will include a 3-year subscription to an email reminder service that I've developed for the info site to remind subscribers to order their free credit reports and renew their fraud alerts.
And each T-shirt will also include 100 shares of stock in the future company.
I plan to only keep around 10% of the shares of the company for myself and use the rest to barter for the knowledge and services I'll need to create this idea for a consumer-oriented credit reporting agency. So, if you purchase a shirt you become a shareholder in the company, too.
Everyone who is brought onboard will be offered shares in the company as compensation for their advice and resources. So, if you think you can help with this project, please contact me.
There are eight versions of the shirt in white or black with the slogan I Am Not A Number across the front in several styles. Each shirt is 100% pre-shrunk cotton and comes with a 30-Day 100% Money Back Guarantee. If you would like a shirt with a different combination of shirt color and slogan size than the ones offered, just let me know.
Hopefully in the near future you and I can control who has access to our financial information and how it is used. And we can end the problem of identity theft and all the wasted hours and the lost income required to straighten out our ruined credit, rather than wasting money on after-the-event credit monitoring or other costly and largely ineffective services offered by the current anti-consumer credit bureaus. In the meantime, you can put the resources on the info site to use to protect yourself against identity theft as best as possible with today's limited methods.
I'm asking everyone who reads this letter for help in getting this concept going and help put all of us back in control of our personal credit information.
Please help me with this project by purchasing a shirt and help out STR as well.
P.S. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, you can contact me at this address.