Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Identity Theft Insurance and Protecting Your Information (Summer 2012)

identity theft insurance
Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in the United States.*  Identy theft occurs when someone uses your personal information (such as your name, Social Security number, or credit card) without your permission.  It can disrupt your finances, credit history, and reputation.  Restoring your identity and good name is a difficult, expensive, and time-consuming process.

Identity theft insurance can help repair the harm incurred by this crime and offer reimbursement for expenses incurred to reclaim your identity, such as:  
  • Costs for notarizing fraud affidavits and certified mail
  • Fees for reapplying for loans due to incorrect credit information
  • Travel expenses and long-distance telephone calls to report, discuss, or resolve the fraud
  • Costs for new government IDs
  • Tax ID fraud-related costs
  • Lost income for time taken off work for resolution
  • Pre-approved attorney’s fees to defend against lawsuits and remove criminal or civil judgments
In addition to expense reimbursements, identity theft insurance often includes proactive fraud alerts to help prevent identity fraud and guidance from consumer fraud specialists to help reclaim your identity if fraud occurs.

Identity theft insurance can be purchased as part of your homeowners policy, as an endorsement to a homeowners or renters insurance policy, or as a stand-alone policy.  

The insurance coverages and services discussed here vary by company.  Please contact your Leavitt Group insurance advisor about available options for you.

social behaviors, identity fraud

protecting your information

Taking proactive measures to protect your personal information will help reduce your risk of becoming a victim to identity theft.  The suggestions here can help protect your information.
  • Minimize the amount of personal information you carry in your purse or wallet.  Don’t carry unnecessary credit cards, your Social Security card, or passport unless absolutely necessary.
  • Always take credit card and ATM receipts and dispose of them appropriately.  Don’t leave them in a shopping bag, on the store counter, or in public garbage cans where they could easily fall out or get stolen.
  • Review your credit report.  You have a right to obtain a free credit report once per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies.  Visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228 to obtain your report.
  • Review your bank, credit card, and account statements as well as the explanation of medical benefits from your health insurance provider.  If you find mistakes or a statement doesn’t show up on time, contact the business providing the statement immediately.
  • Shred all documents that display any of your personal, financial, or medical information.
  • If you receive email, phone, or text messages requesting personal information, do not respond.  Delete the message.  A legitimate company will not request your information in this manner.
  • Be aware of phishing and pharming scams.  These scams involve criminals using fake emails and websites to impersonate legitimate organizations.  
  • Do not use the same password for more than one account, and use passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.  Avoid using easily available personal information in your passwords such as your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, your Social Security number, or phone number.  Change your passwords often.
  • If you shop or bank online, make sure the websites employ encryption to protect your financial information.  An encrypted site has “https” at the beginning of the site URL – “s” is for “secure.”
  • When using public wireless networks, do not send information to any website that isn’t fully encrypted (look for “https” in the URL).
  • Ensure your computer has anti-virus and anti-spyware software as well as a firewall.
  • Set your computer’s operating system, web browser, and security system to update automatically.
For information regarding what to do if you become a victim of identity theft, visit www.FTC.gov/IDtheft