Protecting Your Program and Participants from Identity Theft

July 13, 2009

Identity theft is a rapidly growing crime.  When mentoring programs gather personal information from volunteers and youth, they may place sensitive data at risk for misuse.  Do you know what measures you can take to protect your program and your participants?

Mentoring and volunteer program staff have learned to protect documents or paper files containing identifying information by keeping them in secure locations, but widespread use of electronic documents and recordkeeping has created new threats to the security of personal information.  LifeLock, an industry leader in identity theft protection, has partnered with MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, to increase resources for child safety by sponsoring the SafetyNET program.  LifeLock is also interested in helping mentoring programs understand how to safeguard information on their volunteer and youth participants so they can reduce the chance that an identity theft may occur.

On July 6th, Paige Pedersen from LifeLock presented an educational session for the Mentoring Partnership on the threat of identity theft.  Here are some of the tips she shared with mentoring and volunteer program coordinators for protecting information in their organizations:

  • Verify that you have reached the correct person when contacting someone by phone to give or receive sensitive information
  • Set up computer workstations to lock down when they are not in use and train staff to lock down workstations whenever they walk away from their desks
  • Create complex passwords for all online activity by using 10 characters that include a mix of letters, numbers and symbols, and avoiding use of sports team names
  • Ensure that all laptop computers and personal storage devices have full disc encryption in place
  • Limit administrative privileges on organizational computer systems and employee work stations to key staff
  • Provide for security patches on all operating systems and software in use by the organization and make sure that these are updated regularly

For more on the partnership between MENTOR and LifeLock, visit MENTOR’s website at http://www.mentoring.org/news/135/; for information on the SafetyNet, program, visit: http://apps.mentoring.org/safetynet/factsheet.adp.

Post author Polly Roach is the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota’s Vice President of Strategic Services.