Editors Page: Protecting data and identities
Editor's Page: Protecting data and identities
05/03/2012

One day when I was living in Los Angeles, there was a knock on our door. I answered and was handed court papers and told I had been served. The papers mentioned an incident involving a “Wayne Walley,” only it had happened in San Diego on a date I could easily prove I was elsewhere. However, there was a moment of panic that had me wondering if I would be required to go to court, present proof and be under scrutiny. What if the court didn’t believe me? I checked with my old college roommate who had become a lawyer. He made a couple of calls and the situation was resolved as a case of mistaken identity and a lazy process server who didn’t bother to make sure I was the person they were looking for.

This happened about 25 years ago and it’s the closest I’ve come to dealing with anything involving my identity except for the time a credit card company sent me a letter explaining that they had a data breach and my personal information may have been among the data compromised. Nothing happened that I’m aware of and the company added more protections for its data.

However, with today’s technological advances and the ingenuity of those who hack systems, identity theft is a very real problem that has spawned all sorts of new businesses to help people and businesses protect themselves.

When Erin Jorgensen, Rental Management’s managing editor, attended the “Think Like a Spy: Identity Theft Prevention” seminar at The Rental Show 2012 in New Orleans, she was stunned by what John Sileo of Denver-based The Sileo Group had to say about how vulnerable just about everybody is these days.

As a result, our cover story this month, written by Sileo, is “Hacked: Surviving data spies,” starting on page 20. His article offers several ways businesses can protect themselves by thinking like data spies. For example, he suggests periodically doing a “dumpster audit” to see what kinds of sensitive information your employees are simply throwing into the trash.

Whitney Carnahan, Rental Management’s features editor, also contacted several rental management software companies for a separate story about how their systems can help rental stores protect sensitive customer credit card information.

This is an important issue for businesses because the federal government has passed laws such as the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act and the Red Flags Rule amendment, which spell out the responsibility of business owners to protect customer data as well as liability and related fines for noncompliance. The Red Flags Rule went into effect in May of 2008, but enforcement was delayed until Dec. 31, 2010. Many equipment rental companies likely fall into the “creditor” category, which means they are subject to the rule.

Some of the largest financial institutions in the world have suffered data breaches with hackers accessing sensitive customer data or credit card information. They are often targeted because of their size and the potential of a big score for the thieves, but that doesn’t mean smaller companies are immune. If you offer credit and take credit cards, you need to make sure your company and your employees are vigilant, take precautions and are wary of those who ask for information, particularly those who call your company unsolicited. You should have processes in place to deal with data theft, should it happen, so that you and your employees know what to do as time is of the essence when dealing with stolen information.

If you’ve been a victim of a data breach or stolen identity, let us know what happened and what you’ve done to protect yourself. Sharing your story with your peers can help others be prepared.

Wayne Walley is editor for Rental Management, the official magazine of the American Rental Association, 1900 19th St., Moline, IL 61265. He can be reached at 800-334-2177, ext. 253, or 309-277-4253; fax 309-764-2747; wayne.walley@ararental.org.