“How was your trip to Italy? I was sorry to hear that your daughter, Rose, was sick. But it’s great that she won that Citizenship Award last week at Laurel Elementary. Her teacher, Ms. Jones, in room 18, is great. And is your son, Aaron, still into basketball? How are his best friends, Robert and Max? They look like they have a great time playing in front of your house on Purdue Street.”
I didn’t actually have this conversation about my personal life, but I could have. And with a total stranger. All the information mentioned could be found through online searches and social-networking sites (although I changed the details for this story).
Clearly, these days, it can be nearly impossible to keep personal information — including financial data — private. While we have all been warned about the dangers of identity theft, it is far less common to hear about the dangers that small businesses, such as travel agencies, face. As one expert said in this issue’s cover story, “Fighting Fraud” (page 10), “As professionals who are entrusted with customers’ personal information … travel agents must apply the same protection of personal data that other organizations are subject to, such as financial institutions.”
Twice, I was the victim of major institutions that allowed my financial information — including my Social Security number — to be compromised along with thousands of others. Not only did it affect my relationship with these institutions, but it opened them up to the possibility of legal claims. Whether you are an agency owner or a travel professional working for someone else, it’s your responsibility to get educated on the dangers of not safeguarding your customers’ information — before it’s too late.