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Even Smart People are Victims of Identity Theft Scams

Even Smart People are Victims of Identity Theft Scams

Business must train employees to spot the scams

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Here’s a sobering statistic: more than 11.7 million Americans, or five per cent of the population, were victims of identity theft between 2006 and 2008, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Sometimes it's an organized effort that scams scores of people. But sometimes it's an enterprising crook targeting one victim in an organization, and these crimes can have severe consequences for businesses.

For individuals, it can take at least a year to rebuild a compromised identity and credit, including repeated contacts with credit bureaus, banks, credit card companies, retailers and anywhere else the impostor tried to portray as you. For a business, identity theft can lead to a mess of check forgeries, banking headaches and even intellectual property loss.

Just as there are many ways criminals can snatch data, there are plenty of ways you can keep it away from them. Even if a business takes intricate security precautions in one area, clever and determined scammers may discover other ways in.

Eliminate the Paper Trail

Scammers are known to go through the trash to find useful documents. Along with personal information such as receipts, bank and credit card statements or loan applications, some businesses generate reams of accounts and human resources paperwork that should never end up in the trash. Consumer.gov, a site created by the FTC, said one of the easiest identity theft methods is for someone to fill out a credit card application in your name, change the address and never pay back the balance.

Individuals and businesses can minimize this risk by shredding all paperwork containing sensitive data. If you are using a document shredding company, make sure it's legitimate and know where and how your documents are being handled.


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Online billing can cut down on piles of paper and is the ‘green’ thing to do, but electronic data can also be compromised, sometimes by sharing it with the wrong person through a process called ‘phishing.’ This could come from clicking a link on a page that looks legitimate or perhaps in an email from someone in your address book.

Train employees to never click on suspicious links or links that come from unfamiliar addresses. They also need to know to question any link in an email, even when it looks like it is coming from someone in the company or a business associate.

Viruses and Worms

A related risk is someone trying to access a computer or device without permission. Sometimes software searches for certain keywords or folder names in your directories. Or sometimes hackers upload destructive viruses and worms.

An anti-virus/active monitoring program can help block most of these, as can firewall programs found in modern operating systems. For extra precautions, tools that specialize in identity theft protection can help to block electronic data theft attempts, including alerting you to any new activity in your credit report.

Awareness is Key

It’s one thing to be careful, it’s another thing to know what to do when a breach occurs. The first couple of days are critical in alerting affected financial institutions, reducing any financial liability you may have and freezes your affected accounts, which can make it a challenge for someone hoping to go wild using your info.