1st Step In Defending Against Identity Thieves: Don't Hire Them

Despite the increased media attention and numerous forms of protection out on the marketplace, identity thieves continue to wreak havoc on businesses and their employees and customers. And there are no signs of stopping.

Credit unions have been pushed to the forefront of this epidemic because of their continuous interaction with people's personal and financial information. The upcoming year marks the perfect time to fight back against fraudulent activities.

Unfortunately, there is no single action that can fully protect a credit union and its members from identity thieves. To defend against this ever-present and ever-growing crime, credit unions must use a layered protection approach to reduce their risk and to protect all parties involved. Comprehensive identity theft protection begins with your employees.

The First Step

The first step to successfully thwarting identity thieves is to ensure they are not employed by your credit union. Identity thieves secure positions at institutions across the United States by using stolen identities during the hiring process. As is the case with most businesses, most credit unions do not validate the identity of the applicant, meaning they trust the applicant to be honest when providing his/her name, Social Security Number, date of birth and contact information.

The problem arises in the fact that an estimated 30% to 40% of personal information given to potential employers is fabricated or false. When an employer does not validate this initial information, then the standard background screening is conducted based on false information instead of the applicant's actual information, thereby giving identity thieves access to your institution.

So, to begin protecting your credit union from within, a comprehensive background screening process must be conducted on all potential employees. This process should include:

* Identity verification to ensure the applicant is using a real identity and that all identity elements are accurate.

* Identity authentication to confirm the applicant is using his/her own identity to prevent the use of stolen identities.

* Alternate name and alias searches that find additional names under which the applicant may have committed crimes.

* Criminal records searches at the state and county level to provide the broadest, fastest search for the least cost.

* Sex offender records search from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.

* Ongoing criminal records monitoring to ensure employees are not committing new crimes that could create employee liabilities.

Ongoing criminal records monitoring provides a valuable tool for credit unions to ensure illegal activities are not being performed by their employees while working for the institution. In fact, 69% of companies reporting serious data leaks said the problem was a result of either malicious or unintended employee activities, according to the Ponemon Institute. By continuing to monitor employees' criminal reports, you can help catch a criminal before he/she has the opportunity to hurt you or your members.

Fastest Growing Crime

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States and has affected more than 55-million adults since 2000. Statistics show that one in 20 of your employees will become a victim of identity theft this year. Victimized employees spend time on the job working to restore their identities because this is the time when credit agencies and other governmental bodies are open, thereby reducing the employees' productivity.

Employee Benefit

To reduce your employees' stress and potential time away from their jobs, offer identity theft protection as an employee benefit. However, true identity theft protection must go beyond simple credit monitoring, which only protects against 18% of identity theft cases. Look for an identity theft protection company that offers a multi-layered approach to personal identity theft protection, including monitoring of credit reports; non-credit loans; public records, court and criminal records, and criminal chat rooms and other illegal Internet trading sites.

Monitoring all these outlets is needed to catch identity theft at the earliest point possible and to stop thieves before extensive damage can occur.

Plus, by offering identity theft protection as a benefit, you are helping to raise awareness of the seriousness of this crime with your employees. This will lead to increased attention to data security and to signs of fraud and identity theft, which could ultimately result in a prevented data breach or security leak. Also, your employees will likely pass their knowledge of identity theft protection to your members, again, helping to raise everyone's knowledge of this threat and hopefully reducing the opportunity for thieves to steal and use your members' identities.

By providing identity theft protection solutions, credit unions can extend their security reach beyond themselves and to their employees and members. The key to successful identity theft protection is implementing a layered approach. For 2009, begin to fight back against identity theft and fraudulent activities by first taking an internal look and protecting your institution, your employees and your members from within.

Bill Morrow is chairman of CSIdentity, an Austin, Texas-based identity theft protection company. He can be reached at info<at>CSIdentity.com. (c) 2008 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.cujournal.com/ http://www.sourcemedia.com/