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Identity Fraud Occurs Every Two Seconds.


Your service environment and staff play a role in why identity theft is so rapidly growing to an estimated more than eleven million victims.Identity theft is simply a matter of getting a hold of a name and some validating information like a social security number, driver’s license number, or credit card number. Thieves can then use the information to pass themselves off as your customers (or yourself), committing financial and social mischief in their name such as:

  • Open credit card accounts
  • Apply for employment
  • Apply for loans
  • Even to carry on personal affairs

Most identity theft comes from stolen identity documents. Much comes from the internet where identity information is picked-up by “phishing” emails or websites that ask for detailed personal information on the promise of some benefit. However, identity theft often comes from over-heard information. The source of identity theft is often hard to pin point. There are few statistics about identity theft by source.

How many identity thefts occur due to an overheard conversation? Hard to say as it happens all the time. Identity theft is a crime of opportunity. Your telephone call or face-to-face conversation when registering a customer may be just the opportunity a thief with just a pad and pencil might need. Much of the available information about identity theft focuses on information divulged on the internet and your use of passwords, debit or credit cards. However, an overheard conversation is as important a danger as internet-based privacy threats.

Giving out personal information verbally invites identity theft. front counter

Phone conversations are especially dangerous because the psychology of the telephone makes people feel that spoken information given out over the phone is confidential. Thousands of times a day people pay bills or buy things over the phone, giving out names and credit card numbers within clear hearing of others. The phone worker receiving the information often repeats spellings and numbers just to make sure they were heard correctly. That’s when identity theft can occur, perhaps from someone in the telephones sales office, or someone within earshot of your conversation.

One insurance agent has seen many cases where identity thieves just overhear personal information communicated during interviews.

“…I was in my banker’s office discussing my accounts, and the banker in the next office got on the phone with one of his accounts and started talking to his client. [This time] the guy next to me decided not to pick up the phone, instead he put the call on speaker phone…I overheard the entire conversation–both sides…not only the client’s name, but …the account number, social security number, balances on the account, and so on.”

One article points to the fallacy of needing malware to steal an identity. The article introduces “Todd and Russell,” two new tenants “across the street” who use their cell phones for everything.

“…They conducted all their phone calls outside, sitting on large rocks out front or pacing up and down the sidewalk….Todd and Russell were on their phones a lot. Since it was August, my windows were open and I quickly picked up their first names and that neither of them owned a car….Just as I was beginning to tune out this chatter, I hear Russell: ‘No, no, log into the fan page….Then as clear as day as if Russell was in the room with me: ‘Try cosmic, one three one monkey.” What? Did Russell just speak a password on a public sidewalk?”

Todd and Russell went on to give address information, recite their full names, phone numbers, current and earlier addresses, account numbers, Wi-Fi password, and pin numbers.

Hospital patients are at heightened risk of identity theft. Patient privacy laws may have restricted the way doctors and hospitals can use personal information. No law can do much to stop conversations among health care workers who talk in hallways and cafeterias. So says Maria Brann of West Virginia University who conducted a study of privacy in hospitals.

Bran recorded what she heard healthcare workers say about patients in public settings. Receptionists speak to insurance companies on a speakerphone and with other employees, giving out patients’ phone numbers, addresses and social security numbers within earshot of other patients.

It is critical that personal privacy is as safeguarded as possible with the use of sound masking and proper training with staff about the seriousness of their negligence. Tie National, LLC can help! For more information on sound masking, including the one featured in the video from Cambridge Sound Management, contact us at (630) 518-9600 or e-mail