Identity Theft Insurance 101
What is identity theft?
- Identity theft is currently the fastest growing white collar crime in America.
- In cases of identity theft, criminals obtain your personal data (such as a credit card number or Social Security number) and use the information to assume your identity. Thieves may take over your existing accounts or use your name to open new accounts, or apply for loans.
- You may not be aware that your identity has been stolen until a merchant or collection agency contacts you, seeking payment for a bill you know nothing about. You may also be declined for a loan or employment because your credit records show defaults on loans unknown to you.
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How Do Identity Thieves Get My Personal Information?
While the more elaborate schemes are the ones that often make headlines, most identity thieves still obtain a victim's information through conventional paper means including:
- a lost or stolen wallet, check or credit card
- "dumpster-diving," or digging through your trash for statements and other financial information
- theft of mail from your mailbox
Current findings indicate that about 11% of identity theft is traced to online, computer-based crimes. Identity thieves use fraudulent e-mails (a practice known as "phishing") and fraudulent web sites to trick you into revealing personal data online.
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How Much Am I at Risk?
- It's estimated that 1 out of every 23 consumers was a victim of identity theft in 2004.*
- To assess your own personal Risk of Identity Theft, take the identity theft IQ test.
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What Can I Do Can to Reduce My Chances of Becoming a Victim?
Stay Up-to-Date Regarding Your Credit and Financial Information
- Order your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus and review it for accuracy. (Note: As a result of a new federal law, consumers can now request a free credit report once each year. For more information, go to www.annualcreditreport.com.)
- If you are denied credit or employment, find out why. It could be due to errors on your credit report that you are unaware of.
- Review all credit-related bills and statements carefully. Report and challenge any questionable charge regardless of the dollar amount. A small charge could be a first warning sign of a larger problem.
Check Your Own Paper Trail
- Go through your wallet. Think about how much information a thief would obtain if it were stolen. Don't carry your ATM, debit cards, or extra credit cards unless you plan to use them. Keep your birth certificate, Social Security card and passport in a safe place at home except when necessary to have them with you (when you travel, for example).
- Guard your Social Security number (SSN). Never put your number on checks, or use it as a password online. Only give it out when necessary.
- Buy a shredder to destroy personal financial documents that you discard.
- Never put outgoing checks, bill payments, or tax documents in your mailbox in front of your home. Your mailbox flag helps to alert thieves there may be important information inside. Drop all items in a postal service mailbox or directly at the post office.
Beware of Bogus Callers
- Avoid giving out any confidential information (account numbers, passwords) over the phone to an unsolicited caller who is stating that they represent your financial institution or similar creditor. This person could be anyone. Get their name, location, telephone number, and reason they are calling. Call the person back at the phone number printed on your billing statement.
Don't Get Hooked by Phishing and Other Online Scams
- Learn to recognize fraudulent e-mails and always question those that ask you to verify or provide account information or passwords.
- If you do online banking or other bill payments, monitor your accounts and balances weekly and report any unusual activity.
- Create passwords and PINs that are difficult to guess for all accounts and change them periodically.
- Install a firewall on your computer to protect against Internet attacks, as well as reliable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. Be sure to keep these programs updated.
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What Else Can I Do to Protect Myself?
Most experts agree that even if you take all the right precautions, you may not be able to prevent identity theft from happening - in part because your personal information is not always in your control. Recently, for example, consumers' personal data has been lost or stolen from companies ranging from banks to retailers to personal data vendors.
What you can do is protect yourself with coverage that helps you in the unfortunate event that you do become a victim.
The American Safety Council & Travelers Can Help
In 2006, the American Safety Council in association with Travelers has become the first to offer consumers stand-alone protection against identity theft and we are pleased to offer this valuable protection in many states.
If you become a victim of identity theft, this program provides you with help from a consumer fraud specialist who can guide you through the process of reclaiming your identity. This protection also reimburses you up to $30,000 with no deductible, for your expenses associated with identity fraud, direct losses from identity fraud, as well as safe deposit box contents protection.
Coverage is provided by Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America and its property casualty affiliates, Hartford, CT 06183.
Coverage for all claims or losses depends on actual policy provisions.
Availability of coverage can depend on underwriting, qualifications and state regulations.
* 2005 Identity Fraud Survey Report, released by the Better Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy & Research.