8 steps to preventing identity theft
By Katherine Vessenes
Your office is a treasure trove for identity thieves. In fact, there is a good chance you are enabling identity thieves right now -- and you don't even know it.
The bad news: I estimate about one in ten people reading this will have their identity stolen this year.
More bad news: A number of studies indicate that between 80 percent and 90 percent of your clients will walk away from you if they discover you have not kept their private information secure.
The good news: There are things you can do to help prevent thieves from getting into your pockets and the pockets of your clients.
Financial advisors can be particularly prime targets for identity thieves. Think about all the information you have on your clients: their Social Security numbers, copies of their driver's licenses, tax returns, estate planning documents, their account information, their dates of birth, the names of their children and parents, etc. Sometimes, you even have their credit card information and passwords. In short, you have everything a thief needs to steal someone's assets, credit and identity, and you don't just have this information on yourself, but also on hundreds of clients.
Here is what you can do to prevent this from happening to you and your clients:
1. Don't hire anyone without a thorough background check. Your security system is no stronger than your weakest employee.
2. Put better locks on your filing cabinets.
3. Consider making one person in your office the file librarian. They are responsible for making sure all files are secure and properly returned.
4. Use better passwords. Never use just a single word, and avoid using children's' or pets' names. It's also generally a good idea to use a combination of letters and numbers when creating passwords.
5. Make sure your WiFi has a secure fire wall.
6. Secure your laptops, particularly when they are in cars. Three large companies, GMAC, Wells Fargo and Ameriprise, have each reported that employees had cars stolen. In each case there was a laptop in the car with 200,000+ names and corresponding account information on the laptops.
7. Educate everyone in your office about the dangers of ID theft and what they can do to keep your clients' information safe.
8. Spend time telling your clients what you are doing to safeguard their information. They may not ask you about it, but they are concerned. Putting your clients fears to rest can be good for them and good for your business.