Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Armed Society is a Polite Society

Wouldn’t you agree with that statement? Just turn the words around a bit and you have a universally applicable statement of truth. “An educated society is an armed society.”
When we educate we remove fear of the unknown, and present people with tools to act rather than to remain in a state of confusion or indecision. With any kind of training the goal should be to empower someone with enough knowledge to undertake actions on their own. Simple "how to" training leaves parts of the equation out. Limiting a training course to simple steps doesn't remove preconceived notions that might be contrary to the purpose of the training. Now I do believe in simple step by step training on a topic like how to operate a nasty piece of equipment so you don’t get your tie tangled up in the gears or something equally as ugly. There is a proper method for everything.
“Tab A into slot B…..”

In the identity theft training business however, simple procedure is simply not enough. When a person receives the thorough knowledge of what identity theft really is and how it can affect their lives they begin to have an appreciation of why certain steps are crucial to safeguarding the information of others. With the enactment of the new Red Flag Rules for example, I see a lot of banks initiating the steps they are required to do and showing the bank employees what to do to adhere to the letter of the law. Almost all of these employees will walk out of their training believing that identity theft is still only a financial crime. They will watch the ads on TV telling them that if they have fraud alerts out with the credit bureaus they are protected from identity theft. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of identity theft knows that is just not true. What then has the training really accomplished? Beyond cookie cutter compliance, very little! The bank staff knows absolutely nothing new about the crime, only the procedures they have been instructed to take on behalf of the bank. Had the training been more educational the employee would emerge more as an expert on the subject and be much more effective. Back to my statement, “An educated society is an armed society.” With more people trained to understand identity theft in its’ many forms there are more people who are more in control when it strikes and will know what to do and what not to do. As a victim of medical identity theft what would the uninformed person do? Would they have a mechanism in place to deal with fraudulent record entries, or how to declare themselves as victims to the insurance industry and the Casualty and Loss claims databases?

As long as we have our heads buried in the sand identity thieves will continue to victimize us repeatedly. A little education goes a long way in arming us to know and assert our rights. Doing the minimum is simply unacceptable.