Marketing opportunity for lawyers: FTC releases survey of identity theft


FTC Releases Survey of Identity Theft in the U.S. Study Shows 8.3 Million Victims in 2005

Now that you know, do you know what to do about it?

Here’s the lead to their press release:

The Federal Trade Commission today released a survey showing that 8.3 million American adults, or 3.7 percent of all American adults, were victims of identity theft in 2005. Of the victims, 3.2 million, or 1.4 percent of all adults, experienced misuse of their existing credit card accounts; 3.3 million, or 1.5 percent, experienced misuse of non-credit card accounts; and 1.8 million victims, or 0.8 percent, found that new accounts were opened or other frauds were committed using their personal identifying information.

"Whether you’re from Malibu or Manhattan, Tacoma or Tallahassee, no one is immune to identity theft," said Lydia B. Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The important thing is that people learn how to deter identity thieves, detect suspicious activity on their financial records, and defend against the crime, should it happen."

The full story:

The FTC Identity Theft site:

Another FTC Identity Theft resource:

Identity theft is a growing problem and some experts predict it will soon become an epidemic. As more people become aware of the issue, they will be seeking answers. Who better to provide those answers than an attorney?

There is no shortage of information available. In addition to the FTC, which, I believe grossly understates the scope of the problem, millions of web pages provide an abundance of data and real life stories of identity theft victims. A few hours of weekend research would provide enough background to make you conversant with the issues and various strategies for combatting the growing problem.

Armed with this knowledge, you could inform your clients, prospects, and referral sources, via your newsletter, ezine, reports, articles, web sites, seminars, and so on, and thus, position yourself as a valuable resource on the subject. That opens up all kinds of marketing opportunities for you. And, as identity theft becomes more prevalent, the value of your "expertise" on the subject could skyrocket.

There are five common types of identity theft, and anyone with a social security number is at risk. Personal information stolen from the victim themself is not the biggest risk. It is the vulnerability of the thousands of databases where that information resides. Every day we see evidence of this in the news–stolen laptops, hacking, insufficient wireless encryption. And no, we cannot stop identity theft, as some advertising would have you believe. All anyone can do is prepare themselves for the consequences in the event they become a victim. By the way, the odds of that happening, according to some estimates, will soon be in the neighborhood of one in four.

Your business clients are at risk as well, and so are you. New federal laws impose administrative and civil penalties, and even criminal liability, for failiure to safeguard certain non-public data, even if that data is not stolen. These laws apply to nearly any business that is in possession of that data, and that includes lawyers. Many states are considering (and some have already passed) even more stringent legislation. And, we’re starting to see the plaintiff class action bar sharpening their chisels. (Why is that not surprising?)

So, this is not something that’s going to go away. A lawyer friend of mine who has become a national expert in this field tells me identity theft will increase twenty-fold in the next two years. Bad news for consumers and businesses, but a marketing bonanza for astute attorneys who position themselves in front of the coming wave.

One more thing: some lawyers have developed a new practice area, consulting business clients on (a) how to comply with the new laws and (b) how to mitigate their exposure in the event of a breach. And many lawyers are starting to offer their (business and consumer) clients third-party identity theft protection services, both as a service to those clients and as a source of revenue. If you are interested in either one (consulting and/or offering third-party services), I’ll be happy to show you what I, and many other still-practicing attorneys are doing. 



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