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Employers Offer Help with Identity Theft
Dr. Greg Ketchum, 06/10/06
Identity theft has been in the news with the recent
revelation that the personal data of 26.5 million veterans
and some of their spouses was stolen from the Department
of Veterans Affairs. Well, now according to the Wall
Street Journal some companies are offering “identity-theft
resolution services” to their employees as a benefit
figuring it will reduce the time an employee spends at
work resolving identity theft and will potentially protect
the company from liability lawsuits. In addition, some
insurance companies are now offering identity-theft protection
as part of their homeowner’s insurance policies.
Now identity theft can take place when someone else
uses your credit cards or bank accounts or worse when
they use your personal information to open up new credit
accounts. Just how big a problem is identity theft? Well
take a look at these figures.
- 80 Million: Since early 2005 over 80
million people have had their personal data put at
risk as a result of data breaches like the one at the
Million: In a 2003 study the FTC found
that 27.3 million Americans had been the victims of
identity theft in the previous 5 years.
- $53 Billion: Those 27.3 million
thefts resulted in $48 billion in losses to businesses
and $5 billion to consumers.
How is it possible that thieves can get access to so
many people’s personal information? Well here are
some of the top ways they do it.
- Dumpster Diving: Thieves go through your trash
looking for old bills that have your personal information
- Phishing: Thieves pretend to be companies
and send emails or pop-up messages to have you reveal
your personal information.
- Browsing Government Websites: Thieves can
pull up documents like divorce filings and real estate
transactions to get your personal information including
scans of your signature.
- Stealing or Diverting Mail: Thieves can put
in a change of address to divert your mail or just
simply steal it.
- Copying Credit Card Magnetic Strips: Thieves
use machines that hotels have to recode room keys.
The bogus card charges to the victim’s account,
but the name on the card matches the person’s
So what do you do to reduce your chances of becoming
a victim of identity-theft? Here are three action steps
- Order a Copy of Your Credit Report: Federal
law mandates that you can request a free copy of your
credit report from the three major credit reporting
agencies once a year. Check it over for suspicious
- Protect Your Social Security Number: Above
all, don’t carry your SS card in your wallet.
Keep it in a safe place. Don’t use it as an identifier
unless you are sure of the source asking for it.
- Tear Up Documents Before you Toss Them: Tear
up anything that has identifying information on it.
Be sure to tear up those credit card offers.
Finally, if all else fails and you do become a victim
of identity-theft immediately place a “fraud alert”
on your account with the three major credit-reporting
agencies. In addition, notify your local police
and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
In the old days the main thing we worried about was someone
stealing your wallet or your keys. Now they can steal
your very identity and that requires a whole new level
of vigilance. The old Boy Scout Motto really applies
here, “Be Prepared.”
®2006 Gregory A. Ketchum, Ph.D. All