Each year, there are millions of unsuspecting consumers who fall prey to some form of identity theft. Many times, this happens right under the noses of employees as they conduct their normal work tasks. Email phishing, odd phone calls, and attachments in emails are the main culprits, but there are many ways that thieves collect information and security credentials on individuals.

How many people are affected by identity theft?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 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, became victims of identity theft in 2005.” (Source: FBI.gov) These numbers are on the rise and can cost consumers and businesses millions of dollars in lost income and legal fees.

Why do criminals target personal consumer information?

With this information obtained, the identity thief attempts to gain access to the accounts or property of others in some ways .This may include obtaining a credit card in another person’s name, renting a place to live using someone else’s name or obtaining other loans fraudulently. Some individuals may use the stolen information of a third party to obtain a job under false pretenses. This is a HUGE risk for businesses.

How HR can prevent identity theft at work

Within the human resource arena, it is up to human resource personnel to protect the personal identification of employees, both past and present, from the risk of identity theft. This may be done by educating employees about the proper methods of handling sensitive data. It may also include maintaining a safe system that keeps electronic information protected from the risk of theft.

Some steps to take now include:

  • Regular computer and software password changes for all employees
  • Secure storage of all employee records in compliance with state and federal laws
  • Cloud-based information storage instead of on-site servers and databases
  • Education and policies around the types of identity theft and how to report an incident

Human resource managers can also use various methods including background checks, vendor screening, and verification of documents prior to hiring or using a person within the company. This helps eliminate the risk of hiring someone with a potentially stolen identity. Identity theft is everyone’s business, but businesses are susceptible to breaches if they do not have a payroll and employee information management system in place that is secure.