How to protect your personal and business information from identity theft

Ron Williams, CEO, Talon Companies

It’s making headlines again with journalists saying it’s the fastest growing crime in America, and anyone with a Social Security number is vulnerable. So how serious is the identity theft epidemic? So serious that former defense secretaries, CIA directors and counterterrorism advisors may be recent victims. Science Applications International Corp., a company known for hiring Washington’s most powerful intelligence and military officials, had their database broken into, an information surprise attack, leaving thousands of employees, many with security clearances, wide open to being stripped of their most valuable information.

Stolen identify not only affects Washington’s most elite security advisers, but also average citizens who have no idea they are being robbed.

Smart Business spoke to Ron Williams at Talon Companies about keeping your data safe from identity thieves.

How vulnerable are individuals and business to identity theft?

Tens of thousands of people from all walks of life are currently facing this harsh reality after a ring of identity thieves gained access to ChoicePoint, one of the most frequently used companies to access personal information. ChoicePoint holds the keys to personal profiles of nearly every consumer, selling their information to employers, landlords and government agencies. Shocked by the breach, attorneys and investigators are scrutinizing ChoicePoint executives for withholding news of the breach to those affected for several months.

Companies like ChoicePoint, who retain personal information about individuals in electronic format are now required to report any and all breaches to individuals who live in the states that have enacted legislation such as California’s SB 1386, a law that regulates the privacy of personal information.

What should people know about protecting their information?

As the epidemic escalates, many are left feeling helpless to respond to its devastating impact. Understanding the strategies used by these sneaky suspects can prohibit you from becoming a target. Identity thieves who broke into ChoicePoint’s database set up more than 50 fraudulent business accounts to gain access to consumer data. Combating these silent thieves requires proactive measures, investigation what others know about you and being vigilant about any sign of fraudulent activity.

Simple steps such as shredding all important documents, never disclosing information to unknown callers and only shipping on websites where the credit card account is encrypted are critical to halting this criminal activity before it becomes a crisis.