Friday August 4th, 2006

Three-day sales tax holiday begins as schools prepare to reopen...Company offers identity theft protection using series of "locks" on consumer's identity...Armadillo Indoor Flea Market opens today on Airtex...

Clothing and footwear are expected to be hot shopping items this weekend during the Texas sales tax holiday. Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn is reminding consumers of the sales tax-free weekend--Friday, Saturday and Sunday--as schools prepare to reopen. Most clothing items and footwear under $100 are tax free during the three days to any and all shoppers. Backpacks, purses, bicycle helmets and sewing supplies are among the items that remain taxed. Strayhorn estimates shoppers will save $38.5 million in state sales taxes and $10.5 million in local sales taxes this year. Adult clothing is also tax-exempt. A list of exempt items is available on the Web.

An Arizona company is offering identity theft protection that uses a series of "locks" on a consumer's identity in such a way that it renders personal information useless to anyone except its rightful owner. Lifelock CEO Todd Davis says LifeLock proactively prevents identity theft.

"So we do...are able to do that by placing fraud alerts with not only the three major credit bureaus of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, we also place one with a consumer reporting agency called Check Systems. So now anytime someone's going to pull your credit score, they're going to see this fraud alert that's going to say 'contact me directly and get verbal authorization that it's me' making the request for that new credit card or to change an existing address or credit limit. So it's going to be anytime they try to open a new cell phone account or open a new credit card or charge account."

Davis says you are no more susceptible to becoming victims of identity theft on the Internet than by signing a credit slip at a restaurant or store.

"It is actually the...the area that's the biggest problem our employers and people we do business with. Fifty percent of the time your personal information is lost by your employer or someone...we've just seen the recent data breaches at, for example. Two hundred-plus-thousand people had their personal information stolen from Surfing the Web or doing business on the Web was not what became a victim. It was the fact that had stored their information not securely enough, and computer hackers broke in."

Davis says he got interested in identity theft when the company's co-founder was arrested in a case of mistaken identity.

"Back in 2001, he was a victim of identity theft and had to spend seven days in jail because someone stole his identity, went out to Las Vegas to one of the casinos, opened $16,000 in lines of credit and then, of course, just kept the money and left. So they showed up one Friday morning in Phoenix, knocked on his door--the Sheriff's Department--and told him they had a felony warrant for his arrest. And of course, he's trying to explain to the Sheriff's Department that 'I wasn't in Vegas, I didn't open these lines of credit.' Their answer, as they put him in handcuffs in the back of the car 'you can explain it to the judge.' So, of course, all the charges were later dropped, but he is the example, and he developed this technology over the last two-and-a-half years."

Davis is confident about the identity theft protection his company offers.

"To give you an example of how sure I am that it works, my social security number is 457-55-5462. All that's going to happen now that I gave you that information over the airwaves is that my cell phone may ring an extra time or two because someone's going to go out and attempt to turn that information into money. And when I don't answer my cell phone, or when I answer I say 'no, I'm not attempting to open a new account at Best Buy or get a new cell phone. Those transactions are going to be stopped dead in their tracks."

Davis says if anyone steals your identity while you are LifeLock's client, they will hire lawyers or investigators and pay all expenses up to $1 million.

The Armadillo Indoor Flea Market opens today in a former Garden Ridge on Airtex. The flea market is in a 237,000 square-foot climate-controlled environment that includes wireless Internet, a food court, no admission fee and free parking. A 10,000 square-foot outdoor farmer's market is also featured. Some 300 merchants have signed on.

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