Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Can Past Lessons Offer Clues to Combating Identity Theft?

In 1994 about 58 percent of the US population was buckling up. By mid 2006 approximately 81% of the US population buckled up. Why the dramatic change? Did everyone suddenly recognize that the seatbelts they had been ignoring for years were suddenly cool? No, the reality came partially with education campaigns and laws enacted by many states in the 80’s that forced or convinced people to buckle up.

Today, the generation who never or barely used seat belts is giving way to a generation who has always used them. Part education, part learned behavior, but regardless the effort has paid off immensely. There are thousands alive today that would not be, if this effort had not been undertaken by numerous agencies, both public and private. Local television news channels tout that drivers of horrific looking accidents survived because they were buckled in. All of this adds to awareness and the effort has made seatbelt use the norm not the exception.

So how well is education and enforcement working? The latest numbers available from the US Department of Transportation shows an increase in drivers, miles driven, and number of registered cars on the road. But the fatalities per number of licensed drivers, per miles driven, and per registered vehicles, have been steadily dropping since 1994. The statistics from the NHTSA from 1986-1999 have clearly demonstrated an absolute link to the reduction in fatalities from seatbelt use.

This proves that the plan of educating and enforcement has worked and continues to work up to this day, but shockingly 19%, or 1 out of 5 still don’t think they need this life saving device. They live in the world of “it will never happen to me”, or “it only happens to other people”. Yet, every 13 minutes there is a vehicle fatality and of those some deaths could be avoided with a seatbelt if the person had only believed or understood.

How this is similar to identity theft is when it comes to our identities many are living in the same world of “it will never happen to me”, or “it only happens to other people”. There are many simple but effective changes people can initiate to stop identity theft from happening but choose not to. There are preventative measures they can put in place to mitigate it, but the majority will sit and wait for something to happen before they react.

As with seat belts, only until people become educated will they take the steps to prevent an event from occurring. Many still refuse to embrace technology to reduce risk, and instead they avoid or ignore it.

Over time, thousands lost lives while sitting on the simplistic technology of an unused seat belt. Will consumers finally step up to the plate and take simple but effective pro-active steps to prevent identity theft, or will they continue to ride around unbuckled and hope an accident never occurs? Every 21 seconds there are 3 new identity theft victims, of which 2 were potentially preventable by the victim.

Abatement of identity theft will start to change significantly once individuals start to take control of their personal behavior and not rely on others or hoping nothing will happen to them. Recognizing the vulnerabilities in personal everyday habits and making changes will reduce your risk significantly.

Many are already recognizing that they need to do something, and the actions of those will undoubtedly start a trend. But for those who are unsure of what to do, and still do nothing, are likely to become tomorrow’s victims.

Hopefully it doesn’t take 15 years for 80% of the population to finally become educated on how to adequately protect their identity.