Written by Charity Malmberg of Trademark Title, originally published in Twin Cities Real Producers Magazine
The age of the internet has brought us ease of communication, incredible networking and marketing possibilities, and endless access to new research and data. However, with all these positives, comes an ever-growing problem. We are constantly at risk of fraud and identity theft. Never before has the real estate, mortgage, and title industry been under such scrutiny for protecting consumer’s non-public personal information.
The Federal Trade commission’s 2020 annual report found that American consumers reported losing over 3.3 billion dollars to fraud in the previous year! It was at the top of the list of consumer complaints. As business professionals and owners, we need to take these facts and responsibility seriously. We need to fight to protect our customer’s private information, as well as our own.
Forms of identity theft
There are many forms of identity theft and fraud that could impact yourself or your clients. Perhaps it’s a “customer” who writes a bad check, and later asks for a wire transfer. Perhaps a thief impersonates a trusted company or partner to ask for personal, private, or financial information. Databases are hacked. Email addresses are compromised; social security stole. There are so many forms of fraud and identity theft, it’s impossible to cover them all.
5 tips to prevent identity theft and fraud
We all know the problem. Now it’s time to focus on prevention.
- Have an information security plan in place. This plan should include digital protection and ensure that all hard copies of sensitive information are securely filed or otherwise destroyed.
- Provide employee training on how to handle sensitive documents and customer information. All employees should be included in this training.
- Install and utilize computer protection software—go for the best in business.
- Adopt a “shred-all” policy. When documents are no longer needed, shred them just in case.
- Never share information if it is illegal or you are unsure of the reason someone is asking for it.
Even if you do everything right, some – times you or your customer can still be the victim of fraud or identity theft. If you notice strange withdrawals on your credit cards, bills for things you never purchased, or other warning signs, immediately place a fraud alert. You can learn how to do this at ftc.gov.