How Can You Prevent Identity Theft?

How Can You Prevent Identity Theft?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft continues to top the list of consumer complaints. In 2013, American consumers reported losing more than $1.6 billion to fraud, which is approximately $2,294 per incident. The highest reported age group for identity theft is 20-29, and the most common form of identity theft is tax- or wage-related, followed by credit card fraud, utilities fraud and bank fraud. Florida has the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints, followed by Georgia and California.

Since October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, now is the perfect time to learn about preventing identity theft. Here are some tips from the Insurance Information Institute.

  • Don’t carry unnecessary personal information (social security card, passport, etc.).
  • Prevent ‘shoulder surfers’ from seeing credit card numbers or PINs.
  • Always take credit card or ATM receipts.
  • Don’t give out personal information, whether on the phone, via mail or online, unless you initiated contact or you know the transmission will be secure.
  • Only use authenticated websites to conduct business online. Check for the locked padlock image or look for ‘https://’ rather than ‘http://’ in your browser window.
  • Be aware of phishing and pharming scams that use fake emails and websites to impersonate legitimate organizations. Exercise caution when opening emails and instant messages from unknown sources.
  • Never send personal, financial or password-related information via email.
  • Use up-to-date firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs.
  • Monitor all financial accounts and review monthly statements to make sure all transactions are accurate.
  • Immediately contact your credit card or bank if you suspect a problem.
  • Order your credit report from the three major credit bureaus to make sure it’s accurate and includes only authorized activities. You are entitled to one free credit report per year.
  • Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts.
  • Don’t use passwords containing easily available information (mother’s maiden name, birth date, phone number, etc.) or any series of consecutive numbers.
  • Change passwords if you suspect a problem.
  • Shred documents containing personal information such as credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts or credit card applications.

In the event of identity theft, early detection is the key to limiting the damage. Here are some clues from the FTC that someone may have stolen your identity.

  • You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
  • You stop getting bills or other mail.
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  • The IRS notifies you that a tax return was already filed in your name.
  • A company where you do business or have an account suffers a data security breach.

Despite taking preventative measures, identity theft can still happen. However, insurance may be purchased to help victims of identity theft through the often expensive and time consuming battle to clear their name. Depending on the insurance company, identity theft coverage may be included under a homeowners’ policy, or it may be added by endorsement or obtained under a separate, stand-alone policy.

If you would like to learn more about identity theft insurance coverage, please contact us.

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