November 19, 2009

Private Client Services Newsletter (Fall 2009)
- Safeguard Your Identity and Keep Yourself Safe

Arnold & Porter Advisory

Howard Rice recently sponsored a panel discussion entitled "Protect, Prevent and Prepare: Safeguarding the Identity and Security of Those Closest to You," featuring Steve Levine of Kroll Associates, Andy Reid of Cohn-Reid-O'Neill Insurance Services, Inc. and Ellen Kaye Fleishhacker of Howard Rice.

The panel identified some important tips that you can put to use right away to protect yourself, including the following:

Personal Safety and Security

  • Use your home and office security systems as intended. All too often, we fail to turn the system on, or we create vulnerabilities by defeating some of the security features. Also, be certain to update your security system regularly as technology changes.

  • As part of your travel planning, consider a travel alert service. These services typically provide a description of risks associated with travel to a specific country and send you email alerts if there are any incidents in that country while you are there. Some services help to arrange transportation out of a country in the event of civil unrest, a natural disaster, etc.

  • In some cases, consider insurance products that provide coverage for kidnap, ransom and extortion expenses, and include the hiring of security consultants and negotiators to handle the situation. This is especially important for prominent individuals and business people who travel abroad.

Protecting Private Information

  • Real property records are publicly available, and frequently include copies of your signature on deeds, etc. To avoid public disclosure of your address, your signature and other personal information, consider holding title to real property in the name of an entity (typically an LLC) rather than in your name. Of course, make certain that the name of the LLC does not reveal personal information about you, and that you engage someone else to sign on behalf of the LLC. Also, remember to list the entity as an additional insured on your insurance policies.

  • Think about computer security. For example, be very cautious when connecting your laptop or other wireless devices to wireless services at a hotel, a coffee shop or other similar "public" locations — it can be very easy for someone to hack into your computer when you are connected. Also, if you have a wireless system at home, use WAP2 protection to increase the security of your information and communications.

  • Look into insurance products that offer coverage for identity theft, fraud, embezzlement and forgery. Also consider credit monitoring services that will help you if your identity is stolen. These services are relatively inexpensive, and could help you to avoid the significant hassles connected with cleaning up after identity theft.

Avoiding Employee Theft

  • Consider hiring someone to conduct background screening on your potential household and business employees. Note that under applicable law you must inform potential employees if you intend to carry out background checks.

  • Every employer should have a written policy that clearly states that employees should have no expectation of privacy on their work computers, on their work phones or in their work areas. This will be important in investigating problems that may arise.

  • Some unscrupulous employees may attempt to raise unfounded employment law claims in the hopes of a quick settlement. There are available insurance policies that protect against claims of wrongful termination, sexual harassment and discrimination.

Protecting Your Financial Security

  • Do your homework before making investments: make sure that you understand the structure of the investment, obtain relevant financial statements, check applicable regulatory filings and most importantly, ask questions. Remember: If the investment returns sound too good to be true, they usually are too good to be true.

  • Consider hiring an experienced investigator or consultant to do background checks on financial advisers and due diligence on investments. 

  • Insurance with umbrella coverage and increased limits for uninsured/underinsured motorists and third parties can be extremely valuable when claims arise.

Of course, the best way to protect your privacy and security will vary depending on your specific circumstances. Hopefully, this article is a good reminder that it pays to be proactive in this area. Tailoring specific steps for one's particular situation takes careful consideration and planning. If you have questions about any of the matters summarized in this article, please contact Ellen Kaye Fleishhacker at 415.677.6420 or or contact your usual Howard Rice attorney.

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