The consumer’s responsibility in preventing identity theft

Another consumer protection article in the news recently highlighted some fraud best practices for social networking sites. Click here to read the article. When I say fraud best practices, I mean best practices to minimize fraud and identity theft risk…not best practices for fraudsters. Although I wonder if by advising consumers about new fraud trends and methods, some fraudsters are picking up new tips and tricks? Anyway, many of the suggestions in the article are common sense items that have been making the rounds for some time now: don’t post vacation plans, things that might provide clues to your passwords or secret questions, etc. What I found surprising was that this list of “6 Things You Should Never Reveal on Facebook” still included birth date and place and home address. Are people overly trusting or just simply unaware of the risk of providing personal identifying information out in cyber space, unsecured?

The US government has gone to a lot of trouble to protect consumers from identity theft through its issuance of the Red Flags rule and Red Flags guidelines for financial institutions of all types. I work with many clients that are going to large efforts to meet these important goals for fraud and compliance. Not just because the legislation requires it but because they know it is in the best interest of fostering long term and trust-based relationships with their customers. But just as much responsibility lies on us as consumers to protect ourselves. Each individual or family should have their own little identity theft prevention program that includes: guidelines for sharing information on social networking sites, shredding of paper documents with personal data, safe storage of passwords (i.e. not written down by your computer!), and up to date virus and malware protection on their computer.