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Identity Theft

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by Michelle Ferris on Apr 26, 2016


Is your financial security, or that of your customers, at risk?


It can happen to anyone… 

The phone rings and a collection agency demands that you pay past-due accounts for goods you never ordered. The supermarket refuses your checks because you have a history of bouncing them. But you have always paid bills on time. What happened?

Identity theft is on the rise. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2012, there were about 16.6 million victims of identity theft.

Even with precautions, you are still at risk. Thieves have numerous ways of getting your information. And since the inception of the internet as a viable business venue, identity theft has skyrocketed.

 

How did they get my information…?

There are lots of ways to get information about someone.

  • Phishing (email) schemes to get your personal information.
  • Digging through your garbage or recycling bin.
  • Stealing your mail.
  • “Shoulder surfing,” where the thief looks over your shoulder to see your pin number.
  • Stealing credit card numbers from mail or receipts.
  • Hacking your computer(s) or your email.
  • Using a “Change of Address” form to divert your billing statements to another location.
  • Old-Fashioned Stealing - wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information.
  • Personnel records are also stolen, or employees who have access are bribed.
  • False pretenses are used to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.

In this digital age, we must use extreme caution. One misstep and you could be in a whole world of financial trouble - in debt for money you didn’t spend! Or did you? The debt collectors seem to think so…

 

How can I protect myself and my clients from identity theft…? 

Protecting yourself against identity theft can be achieved through several simple steps. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a great place to start.

 

Protect Yourself

  • Buy Identity Theft Insurance. It is often offered as a very inexpensive add-on to your home insurance or renters insurance policy, and can save you a huge amount of headaches.
  • Shred any mail that has important information on it, such as name, address, pin numbers, account numbers, social security numbers, or other important information.
  • If you’re not going to accept the offers, shred offers from credit cards, loan institutions or banks.
  • Shop carefully on the internet. Use secure sites (https://) with secure payment methods.
  • Never give out personal information, even if they look like they’re from your bank. Your bank should already have this information. If you get an email like this, call your bank directly with the phone number on your card/checks to ensure it’s validity.
  • Important records (birth certificate, passport, expired driver’s licenses, social security numbers, credit cards, and other personal information) should be kept in a fire safe or a cabinet that locks. Even better than a fire safe would be keeping them in a safe deposit box at your bank.
  • Get a lock for your mailbox. If it won’t lock, post office boxes are an affordable solution. It’s a much cheaper investment than repairing credit that has been ravaged by thieves.

 

How to protect your customers as a business

  • Secure your premises with locks and alarms. Alarm systems are effective deterrents to criminals thinking of breaking into your business, including those intent on identity theft – especially alarm systems that are monitored by a security company.
  • Make sure external doors have deadbolts.
  • Exposed windows should be secured with security film, bars, screens or shatter-proof glass.
  • Business records that you no longer have a use for should be shredded. You can buy shredders for relatively cheap prices nowadays, or hire a shredding service to come out for larger shred jobs.
  • Any mail that has your name and address on it should be shredded, and that includes most bills.
  • Be cautious on the phone. Don’t give out information over the phone unless you can positively confirm the caller’s identity.
  • Limit access to your computers. Password protect your computer network. Also, consider issues of internal network access. Does every employee need to be able to access programs or databases that may contain sensitive information? Password protect these, too, and grant access on a “need-to-know” basis to help cut down identity theft.
  • Protect your computer from hackers. Your computer network needs to be protected by firewalls, which help keep out intruders by shutting out unauthorized people. If you’re running Windows operating systems, it’s also important that you keep your operating system updated, installing the various patches as they come out. Often these patches are fixes for security holes.
  • Some websites have Spyware and viruses that attempt to download automatically when you or your employees visit certain sites. If you are using Internet Explorer, make sure that you go to “Internet Options” and set the security options to a higher setting on each computer.
  • If your company has a web site, be careful as to what kind of information you post on your site and how. If you are going to place sensitive information on the internet (something you should be very cautious about), such as financial data or customer databases, it needs to be password protected and encrypted.
  • Avoid broadcasting information. Train your employees to be sensitive to customer information issues, making sure they keep customer information private when they’re dealing with individual customers. Turn computer screens so that they can’t be viewed by anyone except the operator. Don’t repeat customer information out loud or leaving files with customer information lying open on counters.
  • Create and enforce a company wide security policy to educate your employees about issues. It should include information on the issues involved with security threats such as identity theft and what to do about them:
    • Email policies (such as what email filters are in place and how to deal with suspicious email)
    • Computer network access
    • Internet use policies (such as how to increase browser security settings and safe practices, such as disconnecting from the internet when they’re done using it)
    • Customer information protection strategies
    • How to report incidents or violations
  • Disconnect ex-employees immediately. When employees no longer work for your business, you need to be sure that their access to your computer network and company data is cut off immediately.

With identity theft becoming rampant, taking these steps to prevent identity theft for you and your customers is a necessary part of life. It’s easy to become a statistic - but easy to prevent it as well. Make sure you’ve done everything you can.

To learn more about ways to protect yourself, your home, or your business, contact PLC Insurance today.


© 2016, PLC Insurance. The reader assumes all responsibilities for his/her own actions in regards to any items discussed in this report. Adherence to all applicable laws and regulations, federal, state and local, governing the use of any product or service described in this report in the US or any other jurisdiction is the sole responsibility of the reader. The publisher and author assume no responsibility or liability whatsoever on the behalf of the reader of these materials. The reader is encouraged to consult directly with his/her insurance professional.

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