Identity theft will be in the spotlight in 2007, as the President’s Identity Theft Task Force seeks public input on how to reduce the incidence and impact of America’s fastest growing crime. If you haven’t talked to your clients about protecting themselves, now may be a good time.

The federal task force, chaired by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, has been trying to improve prosecution of identity thieves, enhance private and public data security, and provide more recovery assistance to consumers with stolen identities. Formed in May 2006, the task force issued interim recommendations to the president last September. It hopes that seeking outside input will supplement the research and analysis it has already conducted, while shedding light on future initiatives to crack down on identity crimes.

As the government sharpens its scrutiny of identity theft, consider doing the same with your clients. Make sure they understand the importance of both protecting their personal information and detecting suspicious activity. Proactive techniques such as making wallets and purses lighter, shredding documents and mail, safeguarding computer data and e-mail, monitoring account activity, and checking credit reports at least annually all are powerful ways to deter identity thieves.

With increased government scrutiny, it also makes sense for insurance and financial advisors to redouble their effort to protect their clients’ personal information. That means complying with all relevant government regulations (including the privacy provisions of the Financial Services Modernization Act, also known as the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999) and training support staff to dispose of client paperwork through shredding rather than tossing in the trash. Hiring a data-security expert to make sure your computer system is secure also is an excellent idea.

What “red flags” are affecting your business? Send your comments to the National Ethics Bureau at redflags@ethicscheck.com.