Identity Theft & Shakespeare: Iago’s Lament
Raise your hand if you’ve had to replace your credit or debit card in the last 12 months because of a data breach. More than once? More than twice? Chances are you were only inconvenienced or just annoyed with having to update all your online and auto-payment info with new card numbers.
Your information was breached, but statistically, you were unlikely to be a victim of crime. Meanwhile, the company who lost control of your data was probably clueless to the risks facing them and paralyzed by the impact to their stock, reputation and finances. But, like you, they will be OK. For the Americans whose identities have actually been stolen, though, the impacts of identity crimes are real and, unfortunately, enduring. That’s according to the latest research on the topic of what happens after a real case of identity theft.
The Identity Theft Resource Center* has released its annual report on the impacts of identity theft on victims and the findings show modest improvements in most trends. Among the trends heading in the right direction in 2014:
- Identity theft involving new accounts remained high at 54% of crimes reported, but the number of incidents dropped nearly 7% year-over-year.
- Existing account takeover among victims was down nearly 13% percent.
- Financial institutions did a better job of responding to victims as satisfaction ratings rose 10 percent with 45% describing their experience as “Good” or “Excellent.”
Secondary impacts, though, are not as easy to spot and remain too high despite improvements. Consider this about ID crime victims:
- 33% percent can’t get a credit card
- 28% percent have been refused a loan
- 16% had existing credit cards cancelled
- 16% have been turned down for a job or terminated from a job
- 15% can’t pay their bills as a direct result of the crime
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers of how many records breached and the magnitude of fraud committed as a result of an ID crime. That’s no excuse for accepting the unacceptable by compounding the injury of people who find themselves the victim of crime through no fault of their own.
More than 400 years ago, Shakespeare wrote in Othello about the value of a person’s identity and reputation:
'Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls…
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.'
It’s still true today. What is your company doing to keep your customer’s data safe and your company’s reputation well protected?
*Full disclosure time. I served on the Board of Directors of the ITRC from 2005 until 2014, including three years as Chairman of the Board. I continue to serve as a Director Emeritus. If you have questions about how you can prevent ID theft or support the victims of ID crimes, contact the ITRC.
About the author: James E. Lee is a Washington, DC-based consultant who helps companies, associations and individual executives solve branding, marketing, communication and reputation issues that impede growth. Visit JELStrategies.com to learn more.