Morgan Stanley (MS) has rolled out an identity theft protection program as a new perk for high net worth clients in its Premier Cash Management program. This follows a recent poll of high net worth investors conducted by the firm in which respondents cited identity theft as their chief worry, outpacing both terrorism and serious illness.

Data Security Issues

Over half of those polled expect identity theft to be an increasing problem. Similar percentages fear that either they, their children, their parents or their in-laws may be victims without even being aware of it. The percentages of respondents already personally affected by various data security issues include:

  • Personal computer virus (56%)
  • Stolen credit card or debit card number (40%)
  • Lost credit card or debit card (24%)
  • Stolen personal information or identity (11%)
  • Credit card event or issue (11%)
  • Hacked financial account (8%)
  • Child's identity stolen (4%)

Even among those who have not yet endured these problems, concerns run high. Nonetheless, large percentages of respondents trust key institutions to safeguard their personal data, led by financial institutions (83%), followed by doctors and hospitals (71%) and employers (61%).

Taking Protective Measures

In a conflicting set of responses, 69% of those polled believe that they are taking adequate measures against identity theft, yet 81% admit that it is difficult to know exactly what to do, given the pace of technological change. Meanwhile, only relatively small numbers of those polled subscribe to services such as credit score monitoring (28%), personal identity theft monitoring (24%) or online password managers (11%). 

Among the older high net worth investors polled (those aged 50-75), the problems and logical disconnects are more pronounced. They are more likely than their younger counterparts (aged 25-49) to believe that they may unknowingly be victimized by identity theft, and more concerned about keeping up with technology. However, they also are more apt to feel that they are taking all the necessary steps to protect themselves, while simultaneously being less inclined to use the sorts of protective services mentioned above.

In light of these issues, Morgan Stanley has engaged Experian, one of the three leading national credit bureaus, to offer a suite of services to high net worth clients in its Premier Cash Management program that includes:

  • Alerts of possible theft of identity from clients and their minor children
  • Resolution of fraud committed via identity theft or stolen personal information
  • Credit reports from all three national credit bureaus
  • Lost wallet service that expedites cancelation and replacement of cards
  • Identity theft insurance against up to $1 million of costs incurred
  • Surveillance of online trading of Social Security, credit or debit card numbers

The poll revealed that only 15% of those unaffected so far by identity theft were very confident that they would know what to do if they were victimized, and 58% of these were sure that identity theft would create a very stressful situation.

The Bottom Line

The growing problem of identity theft is a leading concern of wealthy individuals. Among leading financial services firms, Morgan Stanley has seen an opportunity to cement relationships with high net worth clients by offering an identity theft protection service to them as an added perk at no additional cost.

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