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Identity theft takes its toll on our workplaces

Last winter, one of the top box-office movies was called “Identity Thief,” a lightweight comedy about a guy chasing a woman across the country after she had stolen his identity. It was filled with pratfalls, sight gags and fat jokes.

Last winter, one of the top box-office movies was called “Identity Thief,” a lightweight comedy about a guy chasing a woman across the country after she had stolen his identity. It was filled with pratfalls, sight gags and fat jokes.

The message of the movie was simple: Getting your identity stolen can be funny. But try telling that to the more than 11 million victims who each year suffer the devastating emotional toll of knowing they no longer have control over their lives.

Film critic Mick Lasalle of the San Francisco Chronicle summed up the movie quite well: “The concept of one person stealing another’s identity might be amusing in the abstract, but the minute you start filling in the details, it becomes the stuff of drama, not comedy.”

Identity theft is not just a financial burden, but also a feeling of vulnerability and violation. It’s why you can find support groups all over the country that deal with nothing but helping ID theft victims cope with the realization of what has befallen them, and the long and winding road needed to be traveled in order to try and resolve the situation.

Research shows it can take up to 33 hours for a victim to come to a satisfactory ID theft resolution. Some reports suggest it can take up to 600 hours for truly serious breaches to be rectified, and occasionally the problem never gets resolved.

Whether 33 hours or 600 hours, that’s a lot of time spent on phones, emails, copying documents, running to the post office, etc. It also takes a lot of direct telephone interaction with a live person, a person who works your basic 9-5 schedule.

This means when a person has their identity stolen, there’s also an innocent bystander about to become collateral damage: the employer.

Industry research has found conclusive evidence that legal issues cause workplace distraction, absenteeism and lost productivity. According to Corporate Wellness magazine, 48 percent of a company’s employees will experience some business or personal legal-related issues (including ID theft) throughout the year, and be away from their jobs at least 51 hours per year to solve them.

This time spent away from work – dealing with legal issues – ends up costing employers thousands of dollars in terms of overtime, absenteeism, higher insurance and compensation premium claims, administrative costs and lost employee production. The publication goes on to further state that studies show employees with legal problems usually:

• Are absent five times more than average.

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