Matt Cullina is the CEO of IDentity Theft 911, a provider of personal-touch identity management solutions, identify theft recovery services and data risk management solutions.
Prior to joining IDentity Theft, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, Cullina spearheaded MetLife Auto & Home Insurance Co.’s personal product development initiatives, managed complex claims litigation and served as a corporate witness for Travelers Insurance and the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.
Cullina talked to Providence Business News about the dangers of identity theft, his company’s 10th anniversary and the evolution of Rhode Island’s business environment.
PBN: Your company is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. How have you seen the industry change over the last decade?
CULLINA: As a business provider, our industry is primarily insurance companies. Insurance has consistently evolved to protect emerging risks, like covering property risk to developing programs to help manage privacy issues. We also work with numerous financial institutions like bank and credit unions, who not only aim to help protect your financial well-being, but have shifted to protect other aspects of your life like your identity.
We’ve always had a different approach than other providers; we focus our efforts on working one-on-one with consumers to proactively protect and manage their identity before a crisis strikes. If one does, a fraud specialist with completely handle the situation from start to finish to make sure identity theft of any kind (medical, financial, tax-related, child, etc.) is resolved.
PBN: How has the threat of identity theft evolved during that time?
CULLINA: Traditionally, consumers think of identity theft as only having a financial impact, like if your credit card number was skimmed and used or a thief found a lost checkbook. Thieves have discovered different ways to take advantage of consumers and the risks are ever-changing, especially with the boom of social networking. Now, thieves look to e-file under your SSN to get your refund, or use your lost medical insurance card for heart surgery (one of our victim’s own personal nightmares!). As these tactics evolve, so do the risks. Not only do consumers need to worry about their finances being impact, but their taxpayer information, their child’s credit, and even their health records. Identity theft doesn’t just affect one part of your life, it can take it over completely. And worse, repairing the damage without an expert can take years to resolve.
PBN: What are the biggest, common causes of identity theft?
CULLINA: Identity theft trends are fairly cyclical in nature. For instance, tax related identity theft will begin to spike right when tax returns are accepted and will linger until the summer or sometimes later. Travel-related identity theft will typically strike during hot travel times like the holidays, summer months, and school breaks. Thieves typically will seek the path of least resistance, so if you’re advertising your birthday, maiden name, or other personal information on Facebook or another social network, it can be easy to piece together a complete profile of someone to steal their identity.
PBN: What advice do you have to both individuals and businesses worried about identity theft?
CULLINA: As a business-to-business leader, we serve as a trusted advisor to customers at seven out of the 10 top insurance carriers and we deliver identity management services to more than 600,000 businesses. Insurance agencies, banks, credit unions, employers, health insurers, and Fortune 500 companies rely on us to cover new identity theft and data risks for their consumer and business population. For a business, our best advice is to ensure you have experts available to evaluate your business operations to ensure there are no holes in security or training. If you think you’ve experienced a breach, a partner to guide you through the process will ease your mind by providing crisis communications, call handling for affected consumers, guidance on regulations, and more. Your customers, and your reputation, will thank you if you’re able to quickly manage the situation and resolve any identity theft.
For consumers, it’s important to speak with your insurance company, credit union, bank, employer, or health insurer to ask if you have identity theft services available. Chances are, you may have access and not know it. If you’re not receiving this protection, it’s important to ask for it. Many institutions can offer it for little or no cost.
PBN: In your opinion, how has Rhode Island’s technology industry and business environment changed since you started your business in 2003?
CULLINA: Rhode Island has a strong insurance presence and we’re lucky to partner to offer our services to customers at MetLife, Amica, Providence Mutual, and more. As a community, Rhode Island is certainly growing awareness around data security, especially with the introduction of the University of Rhode Island Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Center, as well as Congressman Langevin’s part in co-chairing the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. It’s really exciting to see local government and universities taking leading roles in driving U.S. markets to a better place for cybersecurity.