May 19, 2016

Identity Theft Prevention: How to Protect Your Workplace and Yourself

Have you heard that there’s a new identity fraud victim every two seconds?  

The latest identity theft statistics by Javelin show that $16 billion was stolen from 12.7 million U.S. consumers in 2014.

Exactly what is identity theft?

It is the fraudulent acquisition and use of a person's private identifying information, usually for financial gain. Business identity theft involves the impersonation of the business itself.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft has been the number one type of complaint for 15 years in a row.

What are some of the most common methods of identity theft crimes today?

Impersonation crimes are when criminals pretend to be someone in authority. For example, the ‘IRS’ calls or emails to say you owe money and must pay immediately. 

For fake tax returns, criminals file taxes using stolen identity and Social Security numbers. In 2014, there was a 120% increase in tax fraud victims; in 2015, a 134% increase.

New account fraud is when thieves open new charge accounts in someone’s name. 

Medical identity theft is when confidential health records are stolen. The biggest health breach of all time occurred at the end of 2014 and may have affected up to 80 million health records.    

Student and child identity theft is growing because the younger ‘digital’ generation tends to share personal information online.

Smash and grab crimes are the physical theft of confidential information (personal and business) in paper form or on a mobile device.

Here are guidelines for identity theft prevention in the home and office. It's all about awareness, safeguards, and sound information handling processes and habits.

  • Awareness Always be alert to indications of theft and fraud. Keep close watch on all financial accounts; sign up for account alerts. In the workplace, create a culture of security from the top down with workplace reminders about crimes such as phishing, insider fraudsters, etc. Schedule on-going fraud and security training for employees.
  • Compliance: Workplaces must be in compliance with laws and legislation that protect against identity theft including the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA).
  • Physical Protection Never leave confidential information in full view or where it could be hacked. Have a comprehensive Document Management process in the workplace, and implement a Clean Desk Policy.
  • Technology Utilize safeguards such as anti-virus and anti-malware software, and keep applications and programs updated. Lock mobile devices, and use passwords and encryption.
  • Online Etiquette Don’t open email attachments or click on links from anyone you do not know (it may be a phishing scheme). Avoid sharing confidential information on public networks. Learn social media safeguards.
  • Secure Destruction: Information that is no longer needed must be securely destroyed. In the workplace, introduce a Shred-it-all Policy, and partner with an information destruction services expert that provides secure shredding services for both paper documents and digital information (hard drive and e-media destruction).

Reduce the risk of workplace fraud by identifying a company's most vulnerable areas – and putting in the appropriate safeguards.