Banks are Missing a Valuable Opportunity to Talk More about Identity Theft, According to Leading Security Expert

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Better customer awareness presents both a security challenge and a marketing opportunity.

Apart from the security and legal benefits, a visible commitment to better customer security awareness can improve goodwill, enhance brand, and create some unique marketing opportunities.

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Banks are missing a valuable opportunity to raise customer awareness of identity theft prevention nationwide, according to a leading security expert. Neal O’Farrell, founder of security training firm My Security Plan ( and a nationally recognized expert on cybercrime and identity theft, today published a white paper that outlines the opportunity and obligation banks have to do more to build better consumer awareness about identity theft.

According to a study by research firm Insight Express, three out of five consumers believe that banks are not doing enough to educate them on how to protect against identity theft, as most are learning about it through television commercials and/or news reports.

The study added that banks stand a better chance of capturing and retaining customers if they take a more proactive approach to educating and protecting consumers against the threat.

According to Mr. O’Farrell most banks are unaware of the significant marketing opportunities in talking about identity theft to consumers. “Improving customer awareness about identity theft is unique amongst the security solutions available to banks and other financial institutions,” said Mr. O’Farrell. “Apart from the security and legal benefits, a visible commitment to better customer security awareness can improve goodwill, enhance brand, and create some unique marketing opportunities.“

Added Mr. O’Farrell “Most notably, identity theft awareness is the only security solution available that doesn’t have to work in order to be successful.”

In his recent white paper, Mr. O’Farrell offers valuable insight into the challenges and benefits of creating a comprehensive customer awareness program to combat identity theft.

For example:

  •     In spite of media hype, most identity thefts are not online cybercrimes but are usually committed offline by persons known to the victim. Such crimes are typically exploits of poor user decisions resulting from lack of user awareness. And even if personal information is stolen because of mistakes made by the victim, the victim’s bank or credit card provider is still likely to be blamed. Better security awareness is one of the few solutions to these challenges.
  •     Security awareness is the cheapest security mechanism available, for the bank and the consumer, and can provide the greatest return on investment. There are very few weaknesses or workarounds for thieves when facing an informed and vigilant consumer.
  •     Security awareness creates goodwill because it shows you care -- literally. There are few other security measures that can be so publicly discussed and demonstrated in any detail because of their security sensitivity.
  •     Security awareness creates more opportunities to interact with your customers, creating new business opportunities, greater loyalty, and valuable referrals.
  •     Financial institutions have an obligation to build awareness because they are a trusted channel to a captive audience -- there are few consumers who do not have some kind of relationship with a financial institution.

If banks want to take advantage of the benefits that better customer security awareness offers, Mr. O’Farrell offers some advice:

1.    Embrace the positive aspects of identity theft and the opportunity it presents to build stronger relationships with your customers. A strong stance and constant message on identity theft prevention helps build goodwill, confidence, and long-term relationships. It reduces the chance that your customers will switch to another bank because of security concerns, and increases the likelihood that your customers will recommend you to others.

2.    Talk about identity theft loudly and often. Media coverage of identity theft is now a daily occurrence and your customers notice the news. If you’re not as vocal about how you’re helping your customers avoid identity theft, they can be forgiven for assuming you have nothing to say on the subject.

3.    Create a comprehensive and immersive identity theft education program that makes you, the bank, the trusted expert your customers turn to when they’re worried about identity theft. This should include a comprehensive web resource, regular email alerts and tips, and tools consumers can use to manage their own protection.

A free copy of the whitepaper can be downloaded from

About The Author

Neal O’Farrell is the founder of My Security Plan (, a security education firm dedicated to raising consumer awareness about cybercrime and identity theft. Once described as one of the world’s Top 20 security experts, Neal has been involved in information security for more than 25 years, starting in the banking community.

Neal was the first security expert to have his awareness programs endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Secret Service, and the US Chamber of Commerce.

His innovative education programs have been used by a wide variety of organizations around the world -- including corporate leaders like ChevronTexaco and Toyota, famous retailers like bebe stores and Cost Plus World Market, television stations like San Francisco’s NBC11, as well as more than 200 police departments, the FBI, the DMV, and the Government of Bulgaria.

He can be contacted at neal @

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