In this day of extended digital networks and customer-information databases, securing an individual’s identity is more important than ever — not only for the individual but also for their employer. Compromised employee identities can lead to compromised corporate systems, as cybercriminals piggyback on user credentials and other identifying information to hack company accounts or access restricted resources.
According to a report by Javelin Strategy and Research, an estimated 15 million Americans had their identities stolen in 2021, and an earlier study from the same research group discovered identity fraud cost US businesses approximately $56 billion in 2021. As such, successful organizations across every industry are recognizing the need for employee identity theft protection.
Here we discuss employee identity theft — what it is, how it happens, and how employee identity theft protection can help you keep your business, your customers, and your workforce safe.
What Is Employee Identity Theft?
Identity theft describes the illegal acquisition of an individual's private identifying information, which can then be used to fraudulently access financial information or other sensitive data. Employee identity theft is essentially the same thing, with the difference being that the focus is on the identities of a company’s workforce. Employee identity theft is different from the similarly named ‘employment identity theft,’ which instead refers to the use of stolen personal information to pass a background check or otherwise secure a job.
Identity theft is a major issue, and data suggests that the problem is growing. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that in 2021 identity theft increased more than 70% over the previous year. But how exactly are cybercriminals getting access to so much personal information?
How Does Employee Identity Theft Occur?
The rise in identity theft may be at least partially attributed to two different phenomena: The increased digitization of personal information and the rise of remote work necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Long gone are the days when a criminal needed access to their target’s wallet to get their hands on a stolen ID. Theft protection must now be capable of securing less tangible digital access points across an ever-expanding attack surface. And with more and more employees relying on insufficiently secured devices while working outside of the office, stealing sensitive personal information has never been easier.
Cybercriminals — including hackers, hacktivists, cyber terrorists, disgruntled peers, and even state actors (attackers supported by foreign governments) — have a nearly limitless arsenal of tactics for acquiring personal data. These may include, but are certainly not limited to:
Possibly the most commonly used tactic, phishing consists of using fraudulent communications claiming to be from a reputable source to convince a target to share personal data. Phishing may use a range of channels, including text messages, online social networks, emails, or even standard mail.
Skimming uses illegal devices installed on ATMs and retail card readers to capture and record account number and PIN data.
When sensitive information is intercepted from communications between multiple parties, this is known as a man-in-the-middle attack. This may occur when a fake website redirects users from their intended destinations to an unsecured page.
A catch-all term for any program designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system (including viruses, worms, spyware, adware, ransomware, and more).
In terms of employee identity theft, oftentimes, businesses themselves may be at least partially responsible for stolen information by not following data security best practices or restricting access to information systems that store sensitive data.
Why Identity Theft Protection for Employees Is Important
There are many ways that employees’ identities may be compromised. Unfortunately, employees may not always have the resources or the education to effectively secure their personal data from evolving threat actors. It, therefore, falls to businesses themselves to make up the difference, by making employee identity theft protection available.
Offering employee identity theft protection as an employee benefit not only helps protect your workforce, it helps secure your business and your financial future. Here’s how:
It Secures Employee Identities
Employee identity theft protection doesn’t simply protect your employees' identities; it protects their identities as employees. What does this mean? It means that it helps prevent the misrepresentation of your business by those who might masquerade as members of your workforce. Take, for example, the threat of a compromised social media account. Without proper identity theft protection, a cybercriminal could wreak havoc with your online social presence, doing potentially irreparable damage to your brand reputation.
It Monitors Employee Personal Credit and Noncredit Accounts
Credit monitoring is a key element of identity theft protection, but the most effective options take things further. By offering real-time monitoring and immediate notifications for all potentially unauthorized account access attempts, requests for password resets, banking activities, new card or services applications, and personal information changes for all credit and noncredit employee accounts, employee identity theft protection helps employees respond quickly to resolve issues before they become major problems.
It Helps Promote Employee Engagement
Gallup reports that non-engaged employees cost world businesses an estimated total of approximately $7.8 trillion in lost productivity every year. And while there are many factors that might contribute to employee disengagement, few things are as distracting as the reality of identity theft. Resolving problems caused by a compromised identity may take months of effort, leading to a natural drop in workplace productivity. Even the risk of identity theft can be enough to distract key employees. The right employee identity theft protection benefits can help offer your employees peace of mind, and with that comes improved employee engagement.
It Makes Your Business More Attractive to Top Talent
If you’re interested in improving the quality of the candidates who apply to work in your organization, then offering a robust employee identity theft protection benefit may be the answer. In fact, Glassdoor reports that additional benefits are only slightly less important to job seekers than salary. This means that the right employee identity theft protection plan may be a key differentiator when top talent is considering their options.
It Helps Protects Sensitive Corporate Data
Finally, recognizing the importance of employee identity theft protection means understanding the connection between your business and your workforce. When your employees’ identities are secure, their access to your internal systems and databases is likewise less vulnerable to attack. Coupled with effective data security best practices, employee identity theft protection helps contribute to a more comprehensive business security posture.
Things to Consider in Employee Identity Theft Protection Solutions
With so much riding on securing employee identities, it’s no wonder that the number of identity security products for businesses is growing. As you research possible options for your organization, consider the following factors:
How portable is the protection plan?
Although many plans will be valid for an employee while they are with your company, some are capable of remaining with the employee for a limited time or at additional cost after they’ve left your organization. A portable protection plan can help protect your employees while they are transitioning to new opportunities.
What kind of coverage does it offer?
There are many different vectors and threats that can target employees, and not all employee identity theft protection solutions provide fully comprehensive identity security. Solutions providing more extensive coverage will demand a greater investment but will also do more to help ensure the security of your workforce.
Does it include employee family members?
Extending identity theft protection to your employees' family members and other dependents further enhances your own security posture. On the other hand, it may also cost significantly more per person and might only provide a reduced level of personal identity protection.
How many credit bureaus does it monitor?
There are three main credit bureaus, and the most comprehensive solutions will monitor all of them for signs of potential fraud. Again, the trade-off here is that three-bureau monitoring is more costly, but it may mean the difference between an immediate notification and a delayed one.
Finding the Right Identity Theft Protection Solution for Your Business
For businesses and employees in essentially every industry, identity theft is a real and growing threat. The good news is that with the right employee identity theft protection solution, you can help give your workforce the added security it needs to perform well, stay safe, and keep essential business resources away from unauthorized users.
Acrisure Agency Partners can help your organization secure itself and its employees against the dangers of employee identity theft. Contact us today, and we’ll help you find the right solution to fit your unique business needs.