BBB targets identity theft campaign to businesses

• ‘Don’t let bad things happen to your good name!’

The nation’s Better Business Bureau system has launched a new campaign to alert the business community to the importance of preventing identity theft.

“Business owners that don’t take protective measures to secure their information files place their employees, their customers and themselves at risk. They all but welcome a silent, yet very successful intruder: the identity thief,” said Dennis Horton, director, Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.

“The Better Business Bureau has joined in this effort with the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. We are providing helpful tools to small and medium-sized businesses that may lack the time or technological know-how to tackle identity theft and other cyber security issues on their own,” Horton said.

He noted that in the last five years, the rate of identity and account theft in this region has been significant. The Midwest accounts for 10 percent of those surveyed by the Federal Trade Commission.

While identity theft may be a non-violent crime, it is not a victimless one. BBBs emphasize that businesses, as well as consumers, are hard-hit by the impact of this fast-growing crime.

• According to the FTC survey, identity theft cost businesses and financial institutions $48 billion in 2002.

• Businesses are impacted each time an identity thief misuses an existing account or opens a new account in the names of their victims to purchase products or services, rent apartments and homes, obtain medical care, seek employment, obtain fake government documents or commit other frauds.

• Employee productivity can be affected when identity theft strikes. Victims on average spent up to 600 hours trying to resolve identity crime, which can impact on their productivity and morale at the workplace.

• Businesses may unwittingly hire criminals who apply for jobs, using the names, credit and work histories of reputable workers.

• Long-standing customers may end up resenting businesses that hound them for overdue payments for products made by others in their name. And resentment results if a customer determines a particular business to be at fault for providing ready access for thieves to steal their personal financial information.

The BBB cautioned that while identity theft crime has exploded with the growth of networked computers and high speed, “always on” Internet access, it cannot be blamed on technology alone.

“Plenty of identity thieves steal victims’ names, account numbers, Social Security numbers and other vital information the old-fashioned way: by digging through dumpsters, wandering uninvited through offices to scour for unattended purses, and rummaging through outgoing mail,” Horton said. “We urge businesses to practice self-defense and secure their information files in the real world, as well as the virtual world.”

The BBB system’s campaign to assist the business community in eradicating identity theft crime includes:

• A comprehensive Identity Theft Web site ( with helpful tips for businesses and their employees on how to prevent this growing problem. Included is information on how to protect paper files and electronic files.

• An educational video, available in VHS and DVD, that reveals how this crime occurs and teaches viewers, including businesses, how to minimize their risk. The video, which includes actual victims’ stories, is part of the BBB Video Series on timely consumer topics, and can be purchased through the BBB ID Theft Web site.

• Community outreach by local BBBs throughout the U.S. and Canada, who will distribute ID theft prevention tips to their business members; deliver speeches to community and business groups on identity theft; and direct consumers, who are victims of this identity theft, to helpful resources.

“By using our easy-to-access and easy-to-implement tools, even the smallest business can become a responsible custodian of their customers’ personal information and a strong guardian of sensitive employee data,” Horton said.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!