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High Tech Council Adopts Training Program
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By the end of the month, Escalon city employees will know how to spot - and hopefully stop - identity theft.

City council members have approved a training program designed to enhance the city's ability to crack down on identify theft.

"Staff has developed this Identity Theft Prevention Program pursuant to the Federal Trade Commissions Red Flag Rule," explained Interim City Manager Doug Dunford.

Under that rule, all entities that handle money and/or checks have to establish a training program for employees to safeguard their clients.

"The city places the highest priority on protecting any confidential finance and personal information submitted to it in the course of providing city services," Dunford noted in his staff report.

Escalon Police Officer Anthony Hardgraves, who is trained in high tech crimes, will be providing the classes.

"Anyone in the city that takes any form of check, cash, a payment of any kind, will have the training," said Dunford.

That includes city hall workers, police department employees, planning, etc.

"We're working on a fairly tight timeline," Dunford added. "We're going to stagger the training, have two classes but it will be completed by Nov. 30."

Under the Red Flag Rule, the city is required to establish the identity theft prevention program and "tailor it to the city's size, complexity and the nature of its operation," according to the staff report presented to council members for consideration.

Among the areas covered in the training will be: identifying red flags for new and existing covered accounts and incorporate those red flags into the program; detect red flags that have been incorporated into the program, respond appropriately to any red flags that are detected to prevent and mitigate identity theft; and ensure the program is updated periodically to reflect changes in risks to customers or to the safety and soundness of the creditor from identity theft, as well as including a process for administration and oversight of the program.

The Red Flag Rule of the Federal Trade Commission defines "Identity Theft" as "fraud committed using the identifying information of another person" and a "Red Flag" as a "pattern, practice, or specific activity that indicates the possible existence of identity theft."

City employees receiving the training will learn how to identify red flags, from suspicious documents to suspicious personal identifying information, and will know how to proceed when they suspect identity theft may be occurring. They will also learn how to detect suspicious account activity and will have training in mitigating identity theft. There will also be heightened awareness of protecting customer identifying information.

Dunford said the training will help employees and, in turn, the public through greater awareness and increased education.

Council members approved the program and training will be done this month.

In other business at the Nov. 2 session, council members learned of a variety of upcoming events: the city will host a Chamber of Commerce mixer on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m. at the Community Center and will recognize City Planner Duane Peterson at a retirement luncheon on Friday, Nov. 20.

Meanwhile, the council meeting of Monday, Nov. 16 will include an update on the First Street-downtown improvement plan. Members of the Planning Commission met in special session Nov. 4 and heard from a number of residents concerned primarily with the loss of parking on First Street due to the planned project. By the end of the evening, the planners opted to move the plan forward to the council for review, but did not make a recommendation to approve or disapprove of the plan.

Council members will discuss the issue and hear an update from City Engineer John Abrew with possible recommendations for addressing the parking issue at their Monday night meeting.