Is Your Identity Really Safe in the Hands of Government & Businesses

Consumers can take many security precautions to protect themselves from identity theft, but what happens when businesses, service providers and even the Federal government doesn’t?

You may be doing all you can to stop identity theft on the home front but unfortunately the businesses, schools and yes, the good ole’ government often put personal information out there on the front lines that puts us at risk for identity theft.
Consider these examples of identity theft exposures:
Employee Social Security Numbers Available on Internet
For over 2 weeks in June The Washington D.C. Metro agency’s posted a document available on their web site with the Social Security numbers of 4,700 Metro employees. Interestingly the personal information was being used by Metro as a part of a solicitation to companies for workers’ compensation and risk management.
Metro Chief Safety Officer Ronald Keele responded, “We deeply regret this incident, and believe the likelihood of misuse of the information is low.”
Metro followed up by disciplining the three employees involved in the security breach. They are also providing free credit reports, counseling and identity theft insurance covering up to $25,000 for those exposed.
Veterans, Military & Reserves Socials & Birthdates on Stolen Laptop
A department analyst for The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs took a laptop home without authorization. The laptop, which was reported stolen from the employee’s home, had personal information including social security numbers and birthdates for over 28 million people. The data included veterans and their spouses, actives military, reserves personnel and members of the National Guard.
Company Hands Over Employee Records to Buyer -and They Are Stolen and Used in Identity Theft
Philadelphia police arrested two suspects who were using credit cards issued to other users. Inside their car, the police found a list of 60 names, social security numbers and addresses of employees of a business that was planning to sell a portion of the business. The buyers were provided with a list of employees and their personal information as part of the negotiations. Two weeks after the arrest, the company acknowledged the theft and warned employees to protect themselves.
How Bad Can Identity Theft Be?
In 2006:
There were over 8.9 million victims.
Identity thefts resulted in an average of $6,278 stolen.
Identity thefts took an average of 40 hands on hours to resolve.
Regardless of the steps you take at home, from stopping junk mail and credit card offers, to shredding documents and using anti-spy ware, government agencies, schools, employers and businesses often have access to your personal information. Your personal information that puts you at risk for identity theft could be in the hands of an employee who carelessly posts on web sites, an employee who takes a laptop home without authorization and doesn’t secure it or a prospective buyer that you know nothing about who lets your private information get stolen.
Look out for Number One (Because These People Aren’t Doing It)
*Request your free credit reports from all three credit-reporting agencies annually.
*Carefully monitor your bills and statements and don’t ignore discrepancies.
*Consider Identity Theft insurance, which provides not only monetary guarantees but also hands on support and help in the event of an identity theft.