Jan 07, 2014 Dave King
Identity theft has been the most complained about crime in the United States for years, leading many regulatory entities to pass new ID verification and data security legislation. Law enforcement has also become far more active in its pursuit of identifying and bringing to justice individuals who steal corporate or personal information and use it to take on a victim's persona.
This crime has become so prevalent that experts are hard-pressed to find a demographic, industry or region where it has not run rampant in the past several years. Data breaches have certainly increased the risk of identity theft for certain consumers and businesses, while thieves continue to use more traditional measures - such as dumpster diving - to acquire sensitive information in physical formats as well.
As such, businesses need to create more refined and proactive approaches to records management, data security, privacy protection and ID verification. By ensuring that all physically and digitally stored information is being properly controlled and monitored, the private sector can begin to make more substantial strides in the fight against identity theft.
Up in Maine
The Business Sun Journal recently reported that identity theft has been an exceptionally difficult issue for residents and businesses in Maine, where it is now the most prevalent crime in the state. Research has indicated that younger children have been the most frequent victims of the crime, though all types of demographics have cause for concern up north.
According to the news provider, one study from Carnegie Mellon University revealed that children were 51 percent more likely to be victimized by identity-related crimes than adults. In fact, those who were between 15 and 18 years of age were more likely to experience the problem than virtually all other categories covered by the study.
In Maine, identity theft has continued to become a far more prevalent issue in the past decade, with one study from the University of Southern Maine revealing that the rate of victims per capita went up from 10.4 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2011, the source noted. This means that Maine residents were extremely likely to experience identity-related crimes in 2011, while the number only continues to rise.
Additionally, law enforcement officials in Maine explained that identity theft is one of the only crimes that transcends borders and is difficult to halt in the digital age.
"The bad guy used to be almost always local - it may not have been right in this town, but it was usually somewhere in this county," Glenn Ross, Sheriff of Penobscot County, told the Business Sun Journal. "But these guys are often from outside the country. Finding the criminals when they're halfway around the world is almost an insurmountable problem. For us, it's really about educating people about how to avoid getting into these situations to begin with, because once you've been victimized, it's very hard to recover your resources and it's very hard to recover your identity."
Protect the children
Children have long been the favorite targets of identity theft and, as such, parents need to become more mindful of their kids' personal information. There are several services available today that can help parents monitor their children's credit scores without ever having to open an account, and individuals are urged to use these tools.
Businesses need to use similar monitoring software to ensure that their corporate identities are secure. Thieves have started to target small businesses more frequently, and even one instance of this crime can be devastating to any company, especially those in the startup phase. Leaders should implement more advanced ID verification policies and solutions to avoid becoming victims of this crime.