My mom once told me her important documents are stored in a shoebox on a shelf in her closet. As a business professional, you may often leave your information in your office, car and home. Did you ever wonder where else that information could be? More than 10 million people in the United States last year were victims of identity theft.
Identity theft cannot be prevented, even if you are diligent about shredding and filing, but it can be minimized, and early detection can help to mitigate damages.
According to the Federal Trade Commission and news reports, your PII (personally identifiable information) or NPI (nonpublic information) can be purchased online for pennies on the dollar. Your personal, business and financial information has already been compromised somewhere on the Internet. How does this impact you as a business professional? You should keep abreast of the most common types of identity theft and the most effective ways in which it can affect you and your clients.
Most of us are familiar with financial identity theft and credit- card fraud. I have a client who recently had an identity thief superimpose his own picture over the victim's driver's license and open bank accounts in Florida and New York. The thief wire-transferred $120,000 out of the victim's line of credit into the fraudulent accounts.
There are four primary areas of identity theft: Social Security, driver's license, criminal/character and medical.
Social Security identity theft occurs when another person wants to minimize exposure in his or her own name and uses your Social Security number to work and gain benefits.
Driver's license identity theft allows a criminal to impersonate you and open a bank account or provide law enforcement with your information rather than his or her own for a traffic violation or DUI.
Criminal/character identity theft occurs when a thief actually begins a new life under your name. It can go on for years undetected.
Medical identity theft is one I experienced personally. I lost my purse at my son's baseball tournament. Although I canceled my credit cards right away, someone used my medical ID card for treatment in a hospital in Southern California. The impact? Bills from that hospital could have affected my credit, and it is no easy task to clear up incorrect medical information.
In a newly released book, "The Silent Crime: What You Need to Know About Identity Theft" by Michael McCoy and Steffen Schmidt, a hospital nurse is quoted, "Why worry? Because I know that the vast number of patient records lost each year contains enough data for someone else to start a new life."
New legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission to monitor small and large companies to protect personal data collected about clients and employees. It is important to be aware of these new laws and put a plan in place to mitigate potential damages from a data breach, which can include misplacing or losing a disk with names, addresses, employee records, health information or any other personal information. It is not always the result of malicious intent, but often a result of carelessness. However it happens, liability follows the data. These liabilities include significant fines and impact you in business and personally.
Joanna Medin is a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist through the Institute of Fraud Risk Management.