How You Can Play a Part in Preventing the Worker Identity Theft Crisis

Is identity theft a real threat? What can we do in order to protect ourselves from it? Should we just watch our statements, install anti-virus software, keep our social security card locked up, and hope we don’t become a victim? When it comes to a corporation, is there a threat as well? The answer to this question is “yes”. What kind of actions can be taken in order to keep both the company and employees safe from identity theft?

The Basics of Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime that is done by stealing another person’s personal information in order to commit fraud. This crime is obvious in the example of credit cards that are stolen and used to purchase different items. But there are other forms of identity theft such as hacking into a corporation’s network in order to steal information, using someone’s social security number in order to obtain a job, using someone’s medical insurance in order to pay for the thief’s medical bills, taking out a loan in someone else’s name and much more.

Identity theft is a serious crime that has exploded since the late 1990s. Although it remains a serious issue, the rate in which the crime has been increasing has leveled off some over the past couple of years with between nine and ten million people becoming victims per year. And corporate data theft statistics show that businesses just like personal need to have protection in place to protect the identities of their employees. Identity thieves continue to use more advanced methods of theft increasing the cost to any business that becomes a victim of this crime.

The reason that identity theft has been a rising crime over the past couple of decades is due to the age of technology. Technology is consistently advancing and with these advancements come more threats of becoming a victim of identity theft. Think of all of the different places where your personal and sometimes financial information is stored, such as with your cable and cellphone companies, along with your financial institution, and any shopping that you do online. Then think about all of the accounts that you have online, such as Google, Yahoo, PayPal, and more.

Your employer also has all of your personal information on file, including your social security number, and possibly bank information for your check to get direct deposited. All of the accounts and passwords that you have in order to get into the systems that you use at work. If your company does any outsourcing of work, the risk for information to be stolen from these networks increases.

As you continue to think about all of the uses you have for the Internet, along with all of the uses your employer has, it can be a little scary. If any of this information is stolen online or if your employer’s network is hacked and your information is taken, there are huge risks that you will have someone using your information to commit fraud in numerous ways.

Identity theft can be much more than having your credit card stolen. It can be something that turns your entire life upside down. You will months and even years of your life trying to get it under control. As soon as you fix one thing, another can pop up. If your identity is ever stolen, you will need to keep in mind that it can easily be sold over and over again making your problems a lifelong issue.

Is Disaster Just Waiting to Happen?

Recently there were three legal changes that were pretty major that caused an increase in the cost of corporate data theft.

1. Provisions have been made to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act or FACTA that imposed penalties on an employer that did not protect their employees information with the result being employee identity data being lost. The employer could pay civil fines of $1,000 for each employee with additional federal fines. Some states have higher fines as well.

2. Several court cases have also found that employers need to take extra measures in order to keep employee information safe. Courts have awarded the cost of damages to employees whose information was stolen.

3. Several states have had laws passed making it mandatory for companies to inform the consumers of data that has been lost.

The task of keeping data containing employee information secure is becoming more and more difficult. With corporations and businesses outsourcing more of their work, such as recruiting, background checks, payroll, testing, benefit programs, and even all of HR, it makes it more difficult to manage the exposure of employee information. The same goes with outsourcing IT, how are companies going to manage the data when it is being outsourced. With virtual networks and remote offices being the new trend, it makes it difficult to control the way the data flows and to ensure that configurations are standard. How can you stop someone from burning employee information to a CD while at home? All of the regulations and legislation that has been put in place makes things even more complex.

What company can say that they actually understand everything that has been put in place? The result of all of these things are more data lost, and more issues trying to keep everything secure, and more identity theft. All of this revolves around employees with HR and IT trying to keep your information safe.

The good news is that this is a problem that people are aware of and are looking for. Everyone from the owner of a company on down the chain of command are aware of the issues that can come with the theft of employee information.

The Journey Through Identity Theft

It is important for all companies and corporations to have a permanent initiative to prevent identity theft. A program needs to be set up for this purpose and there needs to be someone that manages it. The management of the program needs to be consistently completed. Examine the risks that the company faces, use leadership skills, and continue to manage the program.

Primary Objectives For Identity Theft Program

1. Do everything you can to prevent identity theft.
2. Minimize the company’s liability for identity theft.
3. Respond quickly and effectively to any incidents.

Critical Areas and Key Factors for Success in Preventing Identity Theft

* Follow the path that the processes flow along with its data. Make sure you are aware of where any personal information goes and the path it takes to get there. In order to test the efficiency of your program and safe-guards, you could hire someone to try and hack into the system to get to the personal information.

* Put restrictions in place to only allow certain people access. This will help eliminate the exposure. Treat this data as if it were your own treasure. Be sure you have unique and strong passwords, training and security agreements for employees, and access audits.

* Ensure your employees are trained on the importance of protecting this information. They should be informed that it is personal data and is not something that should be copied. Inform them of the severity of distributing or selling this data to anyone.

* Create policies that need to be followed by anyone that handles this information. This goes for any external people as well.

Minimize Your Company’s Liability

* Do everything you can think of to safeguard this personal data.

* Have controls in place to protect the data.

* Document the steps within the program and the controls that have been put in place.

* Measure the success you have had with your program.

Respond Quickly and Effectively to Any Incidents

* Clear communication that is proactive, not only to your employees but to the public after.

* Explain in the communication what had happened, that a group has been put together to work through it, a procedure to “lock-down” the data has been put in place as the situation is investigated. Also explain that any employee that was affected will be compensated and given assistance in the recovery process. Services will be put in place to monitor the situation for any affected employee.

* Everything that you state to the employees and public must be true and followed through with.

* A task force must be put in place prior to any incident. They will be responsible for putting the lock-down in place.

* Have a drafted letter of communication written in advance for quick communication.

* Make sure investigative services are qualified.

* Expert resources for assistance in recovery and monitoring services should be researched and selected prior to any incident.

* Practice incidents should be done to ensure that the response can be done quickly and effectively.

* A response to an incident should be completed within 48 hours of it happening.

A quick and effective response to an incident can be beneficial to your company and the reputation of it along with having employees that are satisfied.

Identity theft is not something that just started to happen. It began because of the way that the world is moving. Technology is growing and becoming a more important piece of everyone’s lives. With this comes the risks that thieves will use this expanding technology to steal the information they want. A company can help protect their employees by being prepared for anything, including a potential incident.

Making a Report of the Identity Theft Crime

Identity theft is the act of stealing ones identity including the name, address telephone number, credit cards and mother maiden name. In most cases, it is not only the identity stolen. Identity thieves also steal properties secured over the accounts of the owner. This is serious case and is recognized as a fraud.

You can be a victim of this crime as there are no particular requirements for identity theft. Even small companies including college students are also victimized by this crime. However, you need to take the proper action once you are victimized. It is important for you to know who stole your personal information in your computer. You need to identify the thief who opened your new account without your permission.

It is very important for you to know the thief of your account as quickly as possible to avoid more problems to come. The law has been changed allowing anyone to review all their account or credit report annually without requiring payment for such. This law was established in 2005. You can have a free credit report when your previous credit is denied within 60 days.

With this monthly review, you will have the chance of identifying whether there has been a huge unauthorized use of your accounts. You will be able to identify them more quickly and implement an early intervention as well. There are many services that offer monitoring of your accounts and business that are affordable. What happened if your identity has already been stolen? You will need to report this matter. However, you will also need to take different systematic steps before you can report this particular crime.

Police look after the criminal side of the matter. You will still need to do much paperwork. You will need to complete forms and send them to all the companies and agencies that are responsible. Where are you going to report the crime? Do you have the knowledge that you need to fill out some forms for this kind of report? Where are you going to send them?

You may report it to the police. However, you will not receive that advance action to the crime. There are special agencies that entertain crime like this. It will be discussed on the later part of the article. You have to undergo many stages in order for you to clear your name. It can be the most difficult part, as you will be clearing a mess that you did not make. It will take time for you to clear name and battle with bureaucratic red tape.

There are many numbers of federal and state agencies that have jurisdiction, depending upon the type of crime committed. Federal Trade Commission has different agencies that can treat cases like identity theft issues, but you will still need to contact these agencies. It will take time to clear out all the errors made in your name that is why you need to start with the process as soon as you figure out that a crime has been committed with your identity. Start reporting the crime to the different agencies, companies, credit bureaus and investigators to process the clearing of your name and correcting the errors.

You will need to keep all the relevant files of all the contact and record all the relevant conversations and written correspondence. For you to have an easy to understand history of the relevant data, you may need to make a chart of all of these including the date, agency, contact person, company and summary of all the information discussed.

Keep originals and the send out copies. You must keep your originals safe. They will be relevant in the investigation of the crime. You can also send copies through certified mail, return receipt requested. In this way, you will have a record of the date the letters were received.

It may take time to clear your name but you will get there in the end. You will start a new life full of confidence that you will never encounter crimes like this anymore. Remember that patience and determination is the key to the resolution of this crime.

The Consequences of Stealing – Theft and the Law

Theft can include armed robbery, burglary, theft by check, forgery, unauthorized use of a vehicle, fraud, false statement to a credit agency, shoplifting and the list goes on. The consequences for stealing range from a Class C misdemeanor to felony charges, usually depending on the monetary value of what was taken. If the value of the stolen item is under $1,500 then the perpetrator will most likely be convicted of a misdemeanor. This can result in a simple fine and/or community service, but could also involve jail time, depending on the circumstances. If the item stolen was of great value, the accused will most likely be charged with a felony and will have to serve prison time. At the time of a hearing the court will be notified if there is more than one offense on the suspect’s record and this will also affect the sentencing. People who steal generally do not do it just one time.

It is important to note that in some states, stealing of any kind is considered a “crime of moral turpitude”. This means the act of stealing is not a favorable action in community standards of justice, honesty or good morals. Even if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will have a permanent criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. This can have negative effects on the wrongdoer’s character personally, legally and with future employment opportunities.

One of the most common forms of stealing is shoplifting. Shoplifting is the deliberate act of taking an unpaid item from a place of business and it happens more than we are aware. A person can be convicted of shoplifting even if they don’t walk out of the store, but are found with hidden merchandise in their possession. In some states, there is even a “law of Parties” meaning that if you are with a friend who is caught stealing in a retail establishment, you can also be prosecuted even though you didn’t intend on stealing. An average of $10 billion dollars’ worth of goods is stolen from retail businesses each year. The numbers and statistics are staggering. We all pay the price for people who commit these acts by having to pay more for products when companies pad prices to recuperate losses from shoplifters. The law does not look kindly on people who shoplift.

Bottom line, stealing is never a good idea and can land you in a world of trouble. It will affect the offender in many negative ways for the rest of their lives. Stealing also affects everyone in the community, in one way or another, which is why the laws are harsh. Thieves may think that they can get away with stealing, but eventually they will get caught and will be forced to face severe consequences.

An Overview of Misdemeanor Crimes and Probation

Crimes are not all alike. Although all immoral, crimes range in severity from minor infractions to major ones. This is why the law breaks down crimes into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime is called a misdemeanant, whereas anyone convicted of a felony is called a felon. Felonies are the worse of the two, including major crimes like murder, forgery, tax evasion, robbery, auto theft, and repeat offenses. Misdemeanors on the other hand are less severe than felonies, but still carry a cumbersome load of consequences and legal penalties.

This is why it is vital to retain the service of an experienced criminal lawyer for the best chance at reducing or dismissing misdemeanor charges in the case that you are ever charged with a crime. Often times, and especially for first-time offenders, lawyers can get lesser felony crimes reduced to misdemeanors. One of the most common penalties for misdemeanor crimes is probation. Continue reading to learn the basics surrounding misdemeanor crimes and probation, and who to turn to if facing such charges.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanor offenses are crimes that are punishable by up to one year in jail. There are three “classes” of misdemeanor crimes. Depending on the state you live, these can include a series of letters or numbers. In states that classify misdemeanors with letters, they generally range from “A” to “C”, with Class C misdemeanors being the least serious and Class A being the most serious. In states that use numbers to classify their misdemeanors, they generally range from Class 1 to 4, with four being the least serious.

Even though misdemeanors are less serious, but still come with notable penalties. A misdemeanant can expect to pay fines, complete a certain amount of community service hours, serve probation, and possibly pay restitution. The combination or extent of penalties largely depends on the defendant’s criminal history, the particular crimes they are convicted of, and the strength of their legal defense.

Probation is generally between 3 months and one year for misdemeanants. Terms of probation can include, but is not limited to, regular drug screening, monthly meetings with a probation officer, mandatory employment, refraining from committing any more crimes, and more. Breaking the terms of probation results in a probation violation, which in turn, carries a whole other set of penalties, including extension of probation and even possible jail time. It is critical to the sake of your freedom and your rights to obtain the services of a licensed criminal lawyer if ever charged with a crime of any level.

Vigilante Justice – When the Law Fails

People take the law for granted, until it fails. We assume that the man who steals our car or breaks into our house will be prosecuted and punished. What happens when that assumption is no longer valid? When the law fails to protect the citizens and punish the lawbreakers?
The small town of Skidmore, Missouri found out on July 10, 1981, when Ken Rex McElroy was shot to death as he sat in his pickup on the main street of town. McElroy had waged a twenty-year reign of terror over all of northwest Missouri, getting away with almost every crime in the book: rape, arson, kidnapping, burglary, theft, assault, you name it. The law seemed powerless to stop him; witnesses changed their stories; judges recused themselves from his cases; prosecutors dismissed indictments; the town marshal resigned.

I told the story of McElroy’s reign of terror, his shooting, and the ensuing silence by the numerous witnesses to the murder in the book In Broad Daylight, which was published by HarperCollins in 1989, and which won an Edgar Award for Best True Crime and was made into a movie starring Brian Denehey. I revisited the story in a twenty-five year anniversary edition of the book published by St. Martins Press in December 2006. This edition contains startling new information on the killing and the identity of the killers.

It is not surprising that after all this time the witnesses to the killing still have not talked about what they saw that hot July morning. You might hear them say something like “McElroy needed killing,” and what they mean is that the town believed it had no choice but to take the law into its own hands. In their view, the town had returned to the lawlessness of the frontier days, when individuals undertook their own protection at the end of a barrel. Indeed, McElroy was stalking, with a weapon, several witnesses who were scheduled to testify against him in a bond revocation hearing the next week.

You can argue whether what happened that day was morally right or wrong. On Larry King Live, King opined that taking a life outside the law was never the right thing to do. Others argue that it should have happened long before it did.

Behind the discussion is a very basic principle of civilized society, a contract between the government and its citizens: you give up the right to enforce the law and punish lawbreakers in exchange for the government’s promise to do it for you. Put your weapons away and the government–in the form of the criminal justice system–will protect you.

In general, when one party fails to a contract fails to live up to his obligations the other party is released from his promise. If the government cannot protect me, I am entitled to protect myself. If the law t cannot protect the town, the town is entitled to protect itself, to “take the law into its own hands,” as the saying goes. It’s a scary notion in many ways, and it certainly sets a dangerous precedent, in effect allowing individual citizens to decide when they are entitled to engage in “self help.”

One of the most intriguing aspects of the story was the very fragile nature of what we call law and order. We might think that the criminal justice system is rooted in reality through law and courts and cops; the fact is, the criminal justice system is rooted in perception. Once the people no longer believe that it works, it no longer works. If witnesses no longer believe the law can protect them, that it can catch and punish the lawbreakers, they won’t come forward to testify. Cops won’t put their lives on the line. Citizens won’t go to their neighbors’ aid.
In the last few weeks of his life, McElroy had reduced the town of Skidmore to a community where it was every man for himself. When McElroy fired his shotgun over a house in the middle of the night, the neighbors turned away. McElroy, of course, finally pushed the town to far. When the people, with good reason, lost their faith in the system, when they felt exposed and vulnerable to the raging of a violent sociopath, they undertook to solve the problem themselves, they exercised the fundamental right of self-protection.

If there is a lesson to be learned in this cautionary tale, it’s that the criminal justice system in the end is about protecting the citizens and when the citizens fail to perceive that the system is doing its job the descent into lawlessness is rapid and certain.