Friday, June 12, 2009

Don't Worry, I Can Do It Myself!

Back in 1957 our car was involved in a seemingly small accident. Another car had hit ours when my father was driving to work. They exchanged information like home telephone number and address, but as auto insurance was optional neither driver had a policy. No police report was filed because, well, it wasn’t required in 1957.
A day later dad noticed a strange whirring sound coming from under the car.
Being too proud to take the car in to the garage dad decided to fix it himself. Perhaps a little too much egoism was at work there. Dad tore into the drive train, removing this, and then that until the ground under the car was littered with parts. Dad wasn’t a mechanic. In fact he had a reputation for being essentially inept when it came to the mechanical. He was a good architect. He could design complex systems for big buildings but could not change a light bulb without a struggle.

When he managed to put all the parts back on the car the problem was worse. In fact I think he created a couple of new problems trying to fix the first one. Not to be out foxed by a mere car dad kept at it until nothing worked. When my mother suggested that we call the garage to come and get the car dad got a little irritated. His bruised ego took over. “Don’t worry, I can do it myself.” Fatal words. That little incident caused us a very expensive repair, and because of my dads’ refusal to have a simple auto insurance policy we were left without a car for weeks until my mother decided it was time to get one of her own so we wouldn’t get stranded like that again. Come to think of it that car never did run right after that. Dads’ reasoning, like a lot of car owners at the time was that anything that an insurance company could do he could do himself, and better.

It was common for people to have that attitude in 1957. They suspected the insurance companies of scheming to take the public’ money and doing little for the car owner in return. That kind of thinking triggered a whole new area of lawsuits. With more cars on the road than ever before claims of personal liability flew into every courtroom in America. People were suing each other in a frenzy that threatened to grind the court system to a halt. Enter the age of auto insurance. The system that evolved is one of traffic laws that make liability clear in every claim. Whether or not we agree with all of it, the laws are clear.

Today we have liability insurance as matter of fact for every driver. When claims are filed the system is in place to effect repairs for damaged cars. The relative nightmare our family went through over a simple repair would have never happened had my father and the other driver taken out insurance policies. Auto insurance is a self-evident concept today.

In this era of identity theft I hear the same hubris. “Don’t worry it won’t happen to me, and if it does I can fix it myself.” Tell that to the millions of individuals who have suffered from the fallout of identity theft. You will find a different response from them. They know the advantage of a good identity theft service. My identity theft experience has lasted (so far) 8 years, and I still have issues. If I had an identity theft service before my incident I probably would have cleared it up in weeks or a couple of months at the worst and not had to expend over $26,000 in the process.

Identity theft services did not exist then but they do now. There is no excuse for anyone to not have an identity theft service. But which one to get? That decision was just made a lot easier. Federal courts recently ruled that identity theft services that set fraud alerts with the credit bureaus for a fee are in violation of the FCRA. That is one thing we can do for ourselves. This eliminates most of the companies right there. Find a service that will repair your identity after an incident, using real agents licensed to do that kind of work. Don’t do like my dad and attempt to fix it yourself. With more cases of identity theft every day the system is overwhelmed. You cannot do it without a protracted and painful bureaucratic process and a great expense in both time and money. And it may likely never be done. It is restoration you need to have. Anyone can tell you that you are a victim. You want and need repair after the fact.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Failure to Adequately Protect......

Now that we have returned from a well earned albeit too short vacation it's time to get back to business.

Class actions are beginning to crank up in the area of data breach. Not being able to show penury damages from specific cases of identity theft, the victims of data breaches are increasingly turning to class actions based at least in part on the failure of a data aggregator to protect the information they keep.

A class-action suit has been filed against health insurer Aetna for alleged data protection and privacy failures, reports Hartford Business. The company announced last month that hackers had gained access to its job application site, potentially exposing the Social Security numbers of 65,000 current and former employees. Plaintiffs are seeking credit monitoring, punitive damages, costs and other relief, according to the report. The complaint filed last week in a Pennsylvania District Court states: "Aetna unlawfully failed to maintain reasonable systems and procedures to protect [plaintiffs'] information."Full Story

What are the reasonable actions a company could take that might prevent these kinds of court actions? That varies from case to case and company to company, but will likely include the preventive steps required under FACTA, GLB, and states laws that specifically address identity theft. Whether it is 5 records that have been compromized or the 65,000 mentioned above, the liability is the same. A "Failure to adequately protect records" lawsuit should not be considered the cost of doing business like the petty theft of office supplies. The cost to the business cannot be calculated in terms of simple legal fees.
A business that takes the preventive steps on its' own before any data loss incidents can greatly reduce the liklihood of a class action from being initiated.