This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 23, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: This year alone, hundreds of thousands of American's vital personal and financial information has ended up missing.
My next guest knows all too well about identity theft. She was a victim.
Joining me now is Arlene Howard. Arlene is the president of Arlene Howard Public Relations (search).
Arlene, what happened to you?
ARLENE HOWARD, PRESIDENT, ARLENE HOWARD PUBLIC RELATIONS: I was notified about two months ago in a very casual phone call that some money was missing from my new corporate account.
I found out, when I went to the bank the following Monday — this was a Friday call — that, in fact, my account had been cleared out. But the bank had no idea how much money was stolen. So, I believe that not only are you hit once by the criminal, but you are punished the second time by the banking institution.
CAVUTO: How much money was missing?
HOWARD: Exactly, according to my CPA (search), a little under $10,000.
CAVUTO: How did this info get out?
HOWARD: I don't know. And the bank is not saying anything to me.
I wish I did know, Neil. What I do know, however, is that three other 60-year-old-plus clients who had recently opened new accounts at this branch of U.S. Bank were similarly defrauded that very month.
CAVUTO: So, from the same branch...
HOWARD: From the same branch, all over 60, all new accounts.
CAVUTO: Well, were you made whole on all your losses?
HOWARD: No, I was not, not yet, which is interesting, because math is an international language, not open to interpretation. Yet, the bank has no idea how much money they should reimburse me.
CAVUTO: Well, it must be easy for you to state, right? I mean, if you had X-amount of checks that you wrote or debited, what have you, against those that you can claim that you did not write against yourself or debited, then it's got to be a simple case of add them up.
HOWARD: It's a very simple case, indeed. My CPA has supplied that. The bank is still trying to figure out how to do the accounting.
CAVUTO: So, where does this stand right now?
HOWARD: It stands that I have kept this account open with a limited amount of funds, waiting for a final rendering of money that has to be returned to my account, which is above and beyond the provisionary funds that they have returned thus far.
CAVUTO: Any message or warnings to others listening to you, Arlene?
HOWARD: Yes: Bank at your own peril. The mattress is beginning to sound really good to me. And I don't mean for sleeping. It's a very frightening experience. The consequences are enormous. And it goes well beyond the criminal factor.
It reminds me of the picture "Network," where people are saying, I'm sick and tired and I'm not going to take this anymore. And this is a rallying crowd for people who are abused by the system and have no recourse. We have to have recourse. And we have to have satisfaction. And we have to have banking associations systems accountable to the clients.
CAVUTO: All right, Arlene Howard, thank you very much. We hope it's rectified for you shortly. We'll see.
So, what can you do to protect yourself?
Let us ask the chairman and the CEO of SafeNet (search), Tony Caputo.
Tony, what did you think of her case?
ANTHONY CAPUTO, CHAIRMAN & CEO, SAFENET, INC.: I think it's fairly typical of a number of cases that take place. According to some surveys, there have been 1.7 million such cases in the last year.
CAVUTO: But how does that information get out?
CAPUTO: It's just not adequately protected. There are protective measures that are available. Many of them, frankly, should and will soon be provided by the banking industry.
CAVUTO: What do you mean "provided by the banking industry"?
CAPUTO: Well, in Europe, for example, when people do online banking, they are given, by the bank an encryption token, either a smart card or a little USB device like this one that works very much like an ATM card. You have two-factor authentication. You have something that you have and something that you know, so that if one is stolen and not the other, you still have good security.
CAVUTO: All right. The companies that have been dealing with this, what could you say has been a common theme?
CAPUTO: Living in the past in terms of security, assuming that everything is going to be OK when it's not and not taking advantage of protection which is available today.
CAVUTO: But they've got to back up everything. They've got to make sure they have a record of your transactions. They've got to be able to have these layers of security to make sure that this craziness doesn't continue, right?
CAPUTO: And they have to encrypt.
CAPUTO: Encrypt all the data.
CAVUTO: What do you do? What do I do?
CAPUTO: Well, you and I as an individual can do that also. The latest version of the Windows operating system has a file encryption program. We can use that. It's not the strongest...
CAVUTO: But isn't that always hacked, that kind of stuff, anyway?
CAPUTO: It's hard to hack. It is possible to do so. And, ultimately, because the protection is in software, it will be hack-able.
CAVUTO: But, now, lately, we've had all these reports of networks getting hacked, data missing, people getting into files they shouldn't be getting into.
Despite all these safeguards we're taking, it seems to me — and I'll defer to you, obviously, Anthony — you're the expert — that it's getting worse.
CAPUTO: It's getting worse because people do more and more of their business on networks. And so, there is more vulnerable data available.
CAPUTO: The level of protection is increasing. It's just not increasing fast enough. One of the best things that could happen right now is for some of the U.S. banks to take steps to protect this data.
CAVUTO: You know, this has got to happen to a senator, a governor or a congressman. Then it will be fixed like that.
CAPUTO: There is legislation pending.
CAVUTO: All right.
CAPUTO: Barbara Boxer has proposed legislation.
CAVUTO: All right, Anthony Caputo, you just misspelled your name. It should have a V in it. But very good job.
CAVUTO: Anthony Caputo, appreciate it.
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