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For organizations of all sizes, preventing fraud is better than dealing with the tough consequences. In this issue we will discuss the growing threat of identity crimes directed against businesses and the legal response from the U.S. government.
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According to the 2011 Annual Report on Consumer Fraud, identity theft was the leading fraud complaint for the 11th consecutive year. Recent research by Javelin Strategy shows that nearly 12 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2011, an increase of 13 percent over 2010 1.
As identity theft continues to be the fastest growing form of consumer fraud, government bodies have made the protection of personal information a priority. However, a growing trend is proving that it’s not just customer data that thieves are after. Fraudsters are now obtaining information about companies and assuming their business identities in order to steal company assets, client lists and credit information or secure new business relationships and payments. U.S. companies large and small are vulnerable to breaches in data security and risk financial damages and reputational losses resulting from business identity theft.
Identity thieves can be third-parties, employees, competitors and even suppliers—and they are using increasingly sophisticated measures to steal confidential business data and commit business identity fraud
With all the risks associated with data breaches, why don’t more business owners report the theft of company information? In some cases, large companies don’t notice small breaches in their data security structures until after fraud has been committed. Medium-sized and small businesses owners often don’t report information breaches because they believe that their operations would be adversely affected if the breach were publicized.
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 (Identity Theft Act) was instituted by the U.S. government to address the growing problem of identity theft. Specifically, the Act made it a federal crime to transfer or use someone else’s identification to commit or aid a criminal act in violation of Federal, state, or local laws.
Furthermore, the Red Flags Rule is a set of United States federal regulations that require certain businesses and organizations to develop and implement documented plans to protect consumers from identity theft.
Any creditor or financial institution that allows covered accounts must implement a program for Red Flags Rule. With that, the Red Flags Rule was written into FACT Act to ensure that financial institutions and creditors have a written identity theft policy and procedure 3. An amendment to the rule, in 2010, expanded the definition of institutions that must comply to include any business that has access to consumer credit reports, provides information about consumers to credit reporting agencies, or advances fund to or from someone. The U.S. government helps protect businesses by helping them to guard against data breaches. By complying with consumer laws, businesses are protecting themselves.
Theft of paper documents and electronic data occurs in many forms, from dumpster-diving to hacking into company networks. Often, fraud is committed when files are left out in the open and visitors are able to steal, copy or snap a photo of information that should be kept confidential. Furthermore, some organizations do not take proper steps to securely destroy their private data.
The growing mobile workforce and shift to cloud computing are leaving organizations increasingly vulnerable to electronic security breaches and the theft of sensitive business data online. The number of people whose information was accessed in a data breach increased by 67 percent in 2011 4.
Consider how identity thieves are stealing the information required to assume a company’s identity and take steps to prevent it. Here are some tips to help you ward of fraudsters:
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