The 10 Problems Customers Battle When You Compromise Their PII

The number of well-publicized data breaches hitting globally known retailers, hospitals and other organizations grows almost every day. When these organizations fail to understand where and how they’re storing customers’ personally identifiable information (PII), they also fail to manage and protect it adequately. Chief security officers (CSOs) and chief information security officers (CISOs) need to understand how their companies’ data storage decisions increase or decrease risks for customers. That is especially true when you consider the long-lasting, wide-ranging effects a PII breach has on the customers whose data is compromised.

Credit card numbers are one of the most commonly stolen forms of PII, but the real danger for your customers comes with other kinds of data leaks. Although credit card companies are vigilant and responsive when they see anomalous activity on cardholder accounts, if a hacker gets a hold of your customer’s Social Security or driver’s license number, he can essentially steal that customer’s identity and create numerous other headaches. Here are 10 of the most challenging problems your end users may experience if you compromise their PII:

  1. Financial problems
    There are two distinct vulnerabilities if someone’s financial information is comprised. One manifests itself in debt issues. For example, if a credit card number is stolen by a cybercriminal, the activity will be detected and shut down pretty quickly. However, if he steals someone’s identity, the problem could manifest itself in a seemingly unending nightmare of financial loss. With someone’s identity, the criminal could open a number of new accounts (like bank accounts or new credit card accounts) and even tap into investments, retirement and college savings. This could destroy years of work in savings and building equity.
  2. Professional problems
    Some of your customers may be business owners or work in industries that demand strong credit histories, such as banking or any other financial service. A few bad marks on a credit report can make it difficult for these people professionally. A business owner trying to secure new office space or a professional trying to get his next job can’t afford to wait as a case of identity theft is resolved.
  3. Student loan access
    Trying to pay for a son or daughter to go to college is the type of thing for which people spend years planning. The lingering impact of identity theft and the financial woes that come along with it can make it nearly impossible to secure a loan to pay for a child’s education.
  4. Mortgage eligibility
    It’s rarely easy to find the right mortgage or to qualify for one in the first place. Mix in a lengthy spell recovering from the problems associated with a PII breach, and it can be even more difficult.
  5. Utility fraud
    All it takes to set up an account with most utility companies is a street address and a Social Security Number (SSN). From there, thousands of dollars in gas, electric and other bills can be amassed quickly if a customer’s SSN falls into the wrong hands.
  6. Tax fraud
    Victims of PII theft have reported instances of tax returns filed in their names to claim tax refunds. Aside from the obvious financial issues this causes, the false returns can hurt a person’s standing with the IRS for years to come.
  7. Medical fraud
    Using stolen PII to claim prescriptions and accrue other medical expenses is becoming more common. People have received notices of prescription drug charges and emergency room stays they never used, all because some of their personal information was compromised.
  8. Child identity theft
    It can take years for a parent to learn that his child’s identity was compromised. Stealing SSNs and birthdates of minors is an easy way for cybercriminals to operate for years without drawing attention.
  9. Safety concerns
    Reports of cybercriminals using PII to target homes and other property for break-ins are on the rise.
  10. Harassment
    Whether it’s calls from debt collectors, utility companies or any other organization, the fallout from a business losing personal information is as widespread as the problem itself. Victims of this crime experience myriad problems and constantly have to explain the situation to people unwilling to listen.

Most data breaches start within the organization, not on the outside, which is why protecting customers from PII loss starts with data-secure storage.

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Perry Dickau

Former Director of Product Management for DataGravity, Perry provided guidance on product direction and development, as well as on technologies, standards, best practices, and industry trends for data governance, risk management, and compliance. He previously served as a product manager at AvePoint and holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical and computer engineering from the University of New Hampshire.