by Robert Siciliano

Identity Theft Consumer Education is Paramount

Oct 06, 2010

Credit card companies, banks, financial advisors, retailers, hospitals, insurance companies, and just about every other industry and organization that deals with finances has been affected by identity theft. All these entities have to deal with fraud at some level. For some it’s an occasional nuisance and for others it’s a part of their daily grind. Most have heavily invested in multiple layers of security, but all remain targets. Each has its own set of issues to overcome and each copes with the same underlying constant: the consumer is often the most vulnerable variable in the equation. Joe and Sally Main Street generally offer the path of least resistance when a scam is launched. Everything from phishing emails, spoofed websites, un-patched or unprotected PCs, open wireless connections, lack of attention to statements, not shredding data, carrying too much information in a wallet, and overall lack of attention to personal security allows fraud to flourish. Anne Wallace, president of the Identity Theft Assistance Center, explains that the risks are compounded by the increasing popularity of new technologies like mobile banking and social networking. “The crooks are ever-creative,” she says. “They’re always exploiting new schemes to extract information from consumers.” According to Wallace, ITAC members have an obligation to educate consumers about the security threats posed by emerging technology. “It’s so important to keep talking to people about the old threats, the new threats – on a recurring basis.” I totally agree. Every institution that deals with identity theft has an obligation to effectively inform and educate their client base about how they can protect themselves from fraud. Many of these organizations have policies that shift the burden of loss away from the consumers. This is a double-edged sword that does not stop fraud. I’m a big believer in personal responsibility. Whether fraud is the fault of the consumer or a larger entity, a resolution in the best interest of both parties should be sought. It is imperative, however, that the party responsible acknowledges that responsibility. This is how we learn from our mistakes, and how we will eventually overcome fraud. If all parties escape blame, only the scammer wins, and fraud flourishes. For additional tips and identity theft education, please visit Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss identity theft victims on The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet.(Disclosures)