By Brian McGinley
Headlines in the newly released trumpet a 28-percent reduction in Identity Fraud in 2010 and the reporters and pundits descend on the report spewing their pearls of wisdom, anxious for their own headlines. I have been approached by family, friends, neighbors and yes, the media, asking, “You’re in the business, what do you make of the story about identity theft being down so much – is identity fraud behind us and can we breathe a sigh a relief and go about our lives being sweetly oblivious to it?” And my short answer is, “No!”. This is not the time to hang the “Mission Accomplished” banner across our command tower and take our eyes off the threat. We are collectively doing a lot of the right things and we may have won a battle or two, but we have not won the war – and make no mistake, it is a war.
This is not the time for anyone – consumer, business, financial institution or government entities – to become complacent based on these published statistics. Like crime statistics – overall crime may be down, but if you are the one getting mugged – the punch in the nose doesn’t hurt any less to the victim. This is also the case in the fraud, identity theft and data protection arenas, but more harmful and often times longer lasting.
It is risky just to jump to the headlines which can lead to a wrong impression – in the fraud and identity theft arena, the “devil is in the details” – and it is important to consider the details in determining the “so what are you going to do about it?” question. Behind the closed doors, there is not a professional fraud management practitioner out there who believes that all the right protections are already in place and is not concerned about identity related fraud. We’re still trying figure out how to stem the current tide and worried about when the next “Big One” is going to hit.
So what do I think? At the heart of identity and financial fraud is information compromise whether it is Personally Identifiable Information (), Protected Health Information (), Personal Credit Information (PCI), or other sensitive data – information has become a criminal commodity and enabler for fraud – It’s all about protecting the information. Fraud is getting more sinister, sophisticated and complex and consumers and the business community need more guidance to identify potential threats and remediate existing and emerging threats to their information.
Keeping this issue front and center and raising awareness, debate and dialogue are key to protecting businesses’ reputations and consumers’ personal information. In my next blog session, I will share more thoughts and information about the new complexities in fraud, as well as the evolution of what identity theft really means.
With nearly 30 years of experience in risk management, security, loss management and compliance within financial institutions, Brian has held senior positions at Wachovia Corp. and Citigroup. He served as board chairman of the Financial Services Roundtable/BITS Identity Theft Assistance Center.