2009-01-10 / News

Guest column: Safeguarding your personal information

By State Auditor Mary Taylor, CPA

COLUMBUS - Many Ohioans are impacted by identity theft. It is our friends, families and neighbors who are victims of this senseless crime.

According to the Javelin Strategy & Research Survey, 8.4 million adults in the United States were victims of identity theft in 2007. During the same year, the average resolution time for each identity theft victim was 25 hours and the average fraud amount per victim was $5,720.

Safeguarding sensitive information helps reduce the possibility of identity theft and saves taxpayer dollars. The public bears the cost of replacing technology and restoring information when government work-related data and equipment is stolen.

I am committed to protecting your tax dollars and the personal information obtained from clients when conducting financial audits. Upon taking office, I made protecting personal data a top priority. We receive sensitive information from many types of government entities while conducting audits. I am very concerned about protecting the data we collect and will continue to take proactive steps to keep it safe and secure.

In early 2007, we requested that our clients remove any unnecessary personal information from their records before we receive them for an audit. We also implemented internal procedures to ensure that we properly manage and store any personal data we do receive during the audit process.

We then acquired state-of-theart software to give us the highest level of computer security available. Our security software enables us to remotely erase information from the laptop hard drive if the data could be compromised and allows us to track all of our laptops. Additionally, we acquired and installed encryption software on each laptop that secures and scrambles data. This software makes it nearly impossible for someone to access the data from a stolen laptop.

Ohio citizens can take precautions to protect themselves from crime. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers steps for individuals to reduce the risk of identity theft. For example, shred any trash that contains personal information. Identity thieves are known to look through garbage to obtain birthdates, account numbers and other personal information. Also, take steps to protect your social security number. Look through the items in your wallet to ensure that your social security number is not available for others to steal.

It is also wise to purchase security software for your computer and to refrain from obvious passwords for your accounts like your name or birthdate. Above all, always keep personal information in a secure place and never give personal information to unknown sources.

The FTC Web site, www.ftc. gov/idtheft, is filled with tips for identity theft protection. Take precautions to deter an identity thief from making you their next victim. Please visit www.auditor. state.oh.us or call toll free at 1-800-282-0370 for information about Ohio Auditor of State's office services. My office will continue to do our part to protect sensitive information and to make sure that your tax dollars count.

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