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Identity Theft Checklist: Protecting Customer Data
In 2010, for the 11th year in a row, the overwhelming top consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission was identity theft, representing 19% of 1,339,265 total complaints. With so much of their personal identifiable information (PII) stored in the databases of businesses, healthcare organizations and other institutions, consumers rely on merchants to safeguard their data. But the recently alarming headlines of high-profile data breaches plaguing even the biggest corporate giants have shaken consumers’ faith in the ability of public and private organizations to shield them from identity theft.
For owners of businesses and organizations that handle sensitive customer data – including names, addresses, and phone numbers; bank and credit card account numbers; income and credit histories; and Social Security numbers – sophisticated cyber-attacks that target this information are challenging hazards which require constantly evolving defense measures. But even basic steps that can go a long way towards protecting customers from identity theft are often not taken by small and large organizations alike.
The FTC advises organizations that handle PII to adhere to the following, easily controllable measures:
- Take stock. Know what personal information you have in your files and on your computer. Understand how personal information moves into, through, and out of your business and who has access — or could have access to it.
- Scale down. Keep only what you need for your business. That old business practice of holding on to every scrap of paper is “so 20th century.” These days, if you don’t have a legitimate business reason to have sensitive information in your files or on your computer, don’t keep it.
- Lock it. Protect the information you keep. Be cognizant of physical security, electronic security, employee training, and the practices of your contractors and affiliates.
- Pitch it. Properly dispose of what you no longer need. Make sure papers containing personal information are shredded, burned, or pulverized so they can’t be reconstructed by an identity thief.
- Plan ahead. Draft a plan to respond to security incidents. Designate a senior member of your team to create an action plan before a breach happens.
Experian® Data Breach Resolution is a worldwide innovator in data breach resolution and provides turn-key data breach resolution support including notification solutions, call center support, printing solutions and industry-leading identity protection products. To learn more, visit www.Experian.com/DataBreach.