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Are you protecting your customer's identity?

Computer_and_man_2Do you have protective measures in place to guard your customer’s information?

Just recently, the Department of Justice “busted” one of the largest identity theft cases they have ever prosecuted – 40 million credit card numbers were stolen from nine major U.S. retailers.

Now, you might think this type of thing only happens to small retailers.

It doesn’t. In this particular case Office Max, Sports Authority, Barnes & Noble, Forever 21 and DSW Inc. were among the companies targeted.

Maybe you think this can only happen to large companies.

Well, hackers do not discriminate. If they find a weakness, they will capitalize on it regardless of the size of your business.

So what can you do?

For the business owner:

  1. Make sure your Data Security Standards are compliant with the PCI Standards.
  2. Test your computer systems (several companies specialize in computer security).
  3. Do business with companies you know and trust.
  4. Educate your employees about avoiding scams.
  5. Complete background checks on your employees. Many cases of identity theft come from employees.
  6. Review your insurance policy. I know, I know, no one wants to read it – however, the information you will find can be extremely pertinent should you have a situation occur. Insurance companies have different interpretations of what electronic data means and policies have limitations on coverage for employee dishonesty as well as exclusions.

On a personal level:

  • Monitor your checking accounts and credit card balances regularly.
  • Shred documents you no longer need. Thieves will go through your trash.
  • Guard your personal information - don't give information out over the phone in an unsolicited call.
  • Request a copy of your credit report at least annually.

For added protection, you can also purchase some identity theft insurance. This can be a separate policy, or simply added on to your homeowner’s insurance policy. Contact your local insurance agent for more information.

The limits of an Identity Theft insurance policy can vary among carriers and will typically include:

  • Lost wages reimbursement
  • Help pay for attorney fees
  • Costs incurred to repair credit
  • Costs for certified mail to law enforcement, et cetera

How is the government helping you?

In 1999, The Justice Department established its Internet Fraud Initiative. In 2006 the president formed an Identity Theft Task Force and directed it to develop a coordinated strategic plan to combat identity theft. This includes ways to improve the awareness, prevention, detection and prosecution.

Check out their website - there is a ton of information available.

On the local front – Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has enacted several policies and procedures that provide solid resources to the public:

  • A free guide to victims of identity theft.
  • One free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus.
  • Consumers can now freeze their credit reports.

For more information check out their website.

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