According to an FTC press release, identity theft tops the national ranking of consumer complaints for 2013, with American consumers losing a reported $1.6 billion to fraud last year. Here is how some of the numbers break down:

  • Fourteen (14) percent of the more than two million complaints to the FTC (or 290,056) stemmed from identity theft.
  • Thirty (30) percent of these incidents were tax- or wage-related; the largest category of identity theft complaints.
  • Persons between ages 20-29 made most of the complaints

For businesses, the FTC provides a range of resources to help address privacy and security of personal information.  Very often there are some basic, easy to implement safeguards that can significantly enhance a company’s risk profile. This “low-hanging fruit” may not address every risk but will better position the company to avoid many types of data incidents. When a federal or state agency comes knocking, such as the FTC or the Office for Civil Rights in the case of a HIPAA breach, organizations that have taken few, if any, steps to safeguard personal information generally will have a more difficult time (and likely have to pay more in fines/settlement) resolving the enforcement action.