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									                                                                                        December 14, 2006
                                                                                        Stamford, Connecticut

The dangers of identity theft
Identity theft can spell disaster for any business, from a one-
person operation to a Fortune 500 company.
By Richard Lee                                                    It's not just a victim's finances that can suffer. Gardner cited
Assistant Business Editor                                         a Florida teacher with an impeccable professional record
                                                                  whose job was jeopardized after her purse was stolen, and
Members of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce got that              the thief was later charged with prostitution.
unvarnished view when John Gardner Jr., an identity theft risk
management specialist, addressed a chamber luncheon               He referred to a February publication titled, "Take Charge:
yesterday at the Stamford branch of the University of Con-        Fighting Back Against Identity Theft," published by the U.S.
necticut.                                                         Fair Trade Commission, which says that once a name is
                                                                  recorded in a criminal database, it's unlikely to be com-
Businesses bear a responsibility when employees' or               pletely removed.
customers' personal data is compromised, Gardner said,
citing information from various federal publications and          Gardner asked the audience to imagine receiving a tele-
legislation. Hartford-based health insurer Aetna Inc. yester-     phone call from the FBI saying several thousand people have
day admitted that personal data on more than 136,000 of its       been the victims of identity theft, and the cause has been
customers had been compromised after the theft of a               traced back to your business.
company computer, and it was busy informing the victims.
                                                                  "When that call comes in, it's too late to train your employ-
"Every business has private data -- credit card numbers,          ees," he said.
driver's license information, employee information. If you lose
data as a business, you can ruin someone's life," said            The presentation got the attention of Cara Brook, owner of
Gardner, an attorney and author of "Chicken Soup for the          Strategize, Organize, Simplify LLC, a Stamford professional
Entrepreneurial Soul." "Businesses need to be afraid. That's      organizer business.
why you need to take precautions."
                                                                  "I really makes me think," she said, adding that some of
He urged attendees, many of them small-business owners,           Gardner's commentary was frightening for a small-business
to develop a written policy for protecting data and follow        owner.
through by adopting technology and procedures.
                                                                  Brook, who shreds much of her clients' information, said she
Should an employee's personal information be stolen and           will develop a written policy on protecting their information.
identity be jeopardized, the employer's business would
suffer, Gardner said, estimating that it could take 600 hours     Another attendee who works for an area bank and declined
for the worker to restore his or her identity -- most of that     to identify herself or her employer, said the bank takes
time on the clock.                                                measures to safeguard customers' data, including shredding
                                                                  documents and not allowing employees to keep information
A security breach also could result in a 20 percent loss of       on their laptop computers.
customer base, with the company spending an average of
1,600 work hours per incident at a cost of $40,000 to             Gardner presented information that may have shocked some
$92,000 per victim, he said.                                      attendees, said Jack Condlin, president and chief executive
                                                                  officer of the Stamford chamber.
Litigation brought by employees or customers over identity
theft can doom a business, said Gardner, who represents a         "I think it was a good awareness program. The law is
firm that offers businesses a compliance system to mitigate       changing rapidly," he said. "Businesses have to understand
damages and losses.                                               that they are responsible for their employees and custom-

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