What’s The Big Deal About Identity Theft?

IBM, Me, And Identity theft

About May 2, 2007, I received a letter from IBM Corporation. It read in part:

"We are writing because of an incident that has resulted in the loss of information relating to your IBM employment, as we wanted to inform you about what happened and explain steps IBM is taking to help protect you."

This letter was startling because technically, I never worked for IBM. During the late 1980’s, I’d worked for a company, Lotus Development Corporation, which IBM later bought during the mid 1990’s after I’d left Lotus. So, before reading the letter I was wondering why IBM’s Vice President of Human Resources had written to me.

The letter also read:

"Recently, data tapes were lost while being transported by a vendor. Those tapes contained primarily archival IBM employment-related information, including Social Security numbers."

Yikes! The letter sent a chill through my spine. IBM had lost my most sensitive and valuable information including my Social Security number! I hadn’t heard anything about this in the news on TV or online. Now, despite my best efforts somebody else had lost my personal information, which was lost out there available to thieves!

Was I angry? You bet! The feeling is that I am now inconvenienced due to nothing I did, but due to the carelessness of somebody else. My attitude was (and still is), “You lost my data. Find it! And if you can’t, make it right somehow.”

After I calmed down, I continued to read the rest of the materials in the package IBM had sent. There was an application for pre-paid credit monitoring. (More about that in a future blog entry.) The package also contained a list of questions and answers. One item in particular stuck out:

"When were the tapes lost? February 23, 2007."

Why did it take IBM more than two months to contact me? the letter didn't say anything specific beyond a vague description about "taking several weeks to investigate the incident." I can't imagine why it took IBM about 2 and a half months to investigate the theft and to notify me. My personal information could have been used during this long period. IBM's slowness with communicating affected my ability to protect myself against identity theft.

More questions for IBM. When I receive an answer I will post it on this blog.

Next entry: what's the big deal about identity theft?


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