Why the network security of customers you don’t have matters

Posted on August 2, 2013 by

Identity theft is a preventable crime, if we all work together.

A couple of month’s ago I wrote a post about a ridiculously large AT&T phone bill fraudsters ran up on a poor unsuspecting realtor. The whole point of the story was don’t assume anyone else will protect you. Legally, the fraud victim was responsible for the bill. Luckily, in the end AT&T weren’t cold bureaucratic bureaucrats about it and wrote off the damage.

Every company in the world should be protecting everyone else’s identity. Even if they’re not a customer. The financial damage hurts for AT&T sized giants and SMBs alike (although SMBs are more likely to get KO’d). But perhaps most damaging is the tough-to-get-out brand stain caused by sticking a law-abiding citizen with a surprise monstrous bill created by the activities of identity bandits. Competitors have a hard time letting go of a story that scary. The kind of story that makes customers and potential customers turn off the lights, lock the door, and breathe as quietly as possible when you come calling.

Ignoring the security of customers and even not yet customers is a terrible business strategy that’s hard to justify. Suspicious activity, like deviant usage patterns and unmatched signup information, is easy to catch. Blocking fraudulent signups and usage saves your brand and your bottom line. When customers are hit by fraudsters you’re in the tough spot of being the heartless bill collector, or taking the damage out of next year’s marketing budget or worse.

Being aware of typical customer behaviors can help spot and shut down fraudulent activity on existing accounts before it gets too cray cray. For new signups, the identity puzzle Internet pirates build is often incomplete or mismatched and clever filters can easily trigger a request for more detailed proof of identity. Something legitimate new signups should be happy is in place. It’s proof you care about keeping them safe. No need to mention it’s in your best interest too.

When it comes to identity fraud, most companies don’t action against the threat. They’re too hungry for business to think about the belly ache that comes after eating fraudulent sales. But the only way to irradiate the problem, and protect us all, is to look out for each other until the fraudsters see there is no weakness to exploit.