Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Identity Theft Services, get one!

Although this column is intended mostly for business owners, HR and C level security folks, I occasionally focus on identity theft services. There are a few reasons for that. First, in the spirit of full disclosure, I proudly represent what I honestly believe is the very best service available anywhere.

While there are states and federal laws and guidelines intended for businesses regarding information safety, there is also the relentless wave of information theft resulting in identity theft that goes unabated. Each incident of data loss that is reported to the FTC and law enforcement results in a better understanding of the circumstances that create the opportunity for loss or theft. The laws are increasingly focused on some of the root causes as the data improves. That is partially why we now have a refocus on HIPAA and the challenges medical information protection creates. The new Red Flags Rule has established at least 26 specific activities that indicate possible identity theft and is aimed at virtually every business sector for compliance. Both of these laws are mandatory for the affected businesses and agencies, and if applied effectively should greatly reduce the incidents of data theft and misuse plaguing American business.

At the same time as reported by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recently there is no let up in reported cases of identity theft. Reporting is indeed improved which means that we are probably seeing more accurate data but it is undeniable that identity theft is still on the rise.

What does that mean to us as both business people and individuals? I’ve often used the phrase “An armed society is a polite society” jokingly, but there is an element of truth to that. Let’s be clear, I’m not advocating using firearms to fight identity theft! What I am saying however is that for as long as identity theft is an issue, and there is no indication that it will go away soon, we should approach it on both fronts. Both by applying the steps in the laws to our businesses, and by covering our own personal risks as best we can.

That brings us to identity theft protection products. I was talking with a friend recently about auto insurance rates. We both pay more than we would like to pay but agree that when we need to file a claim we are glad its there. So the cost of the insurance is easy to justify to protect the investment we have in our cars. What price are we willing to pay to safeguard our identities? Identity theft is a real problem that affects all of us and is here to stay. What would we be willing to pay to protect ourselves from being falsely arrested as a victim of identity theft? How about having our medical information usurped by thieves, used, and possibly altered innocently by medical records keepers? Bank account takeovers, new lives being established by illegal aliens using our SSN and personal information? Each one of these circumstances when they occur create a permanantly skewed picture of who we are to the world at large. What would we want an identity theft service company to do for us realistically? It needs to be clearly understood that there are no current means to stop identity theft. However, by being smart we can reduce our exposure and risk. The focus needs to be not what the service will do to stop ID theft but what they do to provide an early warning system and safeguard us from the fallout. It often takes months and sometime years to clear up just one incident of identity theft when we act on our own behalf. Victims face a bureaucracy of regulations and red tape when it comes to correcting records and databases. I think that is where the focus needs to be when choosing an identity theft service. It is necessary to have a service with a proven track record of working with federal, state, and private agencies to wade through the complexities, work to correct records and represent the victim by building the appropriate files and history. Once identity theft happens it is statistically more likely to reoccur. Establishing a victims’ identity theft history is just as crucial as the initial restoration itself.

Be smart, protect your business and the employees, but do not count yourself out of the picture. Identity theft has no boundaries and can happen to anyone at any time. Be smart and be prepared. A good service is a very small price to pay to avoid the emotional and financial fallout from identity theft. I don’t know how many auto claims are filed each year but I do know that there are somewhere between 8 and 10 million identity theft victims each year in the U.S.

For more information on the Identity Theft Shield I represent look at the My Business Website link in this column.

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