Reports that cold-call companies are breaking the rules in place to protect consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls have revived on-going debates about privacy and confirmed there is a growing black market involved in trading individuals’ personal information.
Do the right thing
Such revelations provide an overdue opportunity to raise the public’s awareness of how to protect their data and prevent themselves from becoming a target; but organisations also have a responsibility to do the right thing. Performing internet transactions is becoming habitual for many of us, and consumers are better versed than they’ve ever been in exercising caution and vigilance online (it’s best to uncheck the box regardless of whether you want to receive emails or offers that may be of interest to you). In return, consumers deserve a reliable service that guarantees their data will not be passed on to third parties and subsequently misused.
Spike in reporting
In the same week, complaints about spam texts have increased, illustrating to what extent personal information is exploited. This spike in reported complaints is reflective of an increase in awareness of the risks and threats; the more alert people become, the more they will report incidents and concerns. Campaigning to raise awareness of how to protect information both online and offline really does work; but it doesn’t happen overnight. Consider how many times similar stories have been reported before consumers decided to act. This is also true of any workforce; communication must be regular and repeated to really embed the message and encourage behaviour to change.
Amidst these headlines, HSBC issued a letter to its customers warning them of Boiler Room scams and giving advice on what they can do to protect themselves. Boiler Room scams are not often talked about, and yet even experienced investors still fall victim to share-sale fraud. It’s refreshing to receive dedicated guidance on how to avoid fraud, written in plain English; and it’s difficult to ignore a message that’s come directly from a financial organisation.
Pass the buck
This groundswell in activity against the misuse of personal information is representative of our relatively new way of living in the digital age; there aren’t many of us who stop to read the instructions before we rip the box open to play with a new toy. It is becoming more evident that consumers are now realising the value of their personal information and the necessity to protect it both online and offline. However the buck doesn’t stop here; awareness and education must be a continuous and sustained effort.