Each year, millions of unsuspecting consumers will fall prey to identity theft. A survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2006 estimated that 8.3 million American consumers, or 3.7 percent of the adult population, were victims of identity theft in 2005. (FBI.gov) These numbers are on the rise and can cost consumers millions of dollars in lost income and legal fees.
Criminals target personal consumer information to gain access to the accounts or property of others. Identity thieves can obtain a credit card or rent an apartment using someone else’s name, or obtain loans fraudulently. Some individuals may even use stolen information of a third party to obtain a job.
Identity theft is everyone’s business, but businesses also can be susceptible to breaches if they do not have secure payroll and employee information management systems in place. Employers must protect the personal identification of employees, both past and present, from the risk of identity theft. Here are some basic measures they can take to guard against identity theft:
- Educate employees about proper methods of handling sensitive data.
- Maintain a safe system that keeps electronic information protected from the risk of theft.
- Shred sensitive information when it is no longer required. Employers who don’t discard information properly could face potential liability.
- Conduct background checks and complete required documents to verify identity and employment eligibility prior to hiring. These measures can help eliminate the risk of hiring someone with a stolen identity.
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