A Publication of WTVP

Identity theft is an enormous problem in our society today and is a new exposure which more people need to consider when purchasing insurance protection. Identity theft, or identity fraud, is the misuse of someone’s identity to obtain credit or credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from existing accounts, apply for loans, establish accounts with utilities, rent an apartment, file for bankruptcy, or obtain a job using the victim’s name. Recently, criminals have even begun using their victims’ identities to commit crimes ranging from traffic infractions to felonies.

There are four types of identity theft crime:

1. Financial ID Theft — In this type of case, the perpetrator uses your name and/or Social Security Number to apply for credit cards or loans, purchase merchandise, or lease cars or apartments.

2. Criminal ID Theft — The imposter in this crime provides the victim’s information instead of his or her own when stopped by law enforcement. Eventually, when the arrest warrant is issued, it is in the name of the person issued the citation—yours.

3. Identity Cloning — In this crime the imposter uses the victim’s information to establish a new life, effectively working and living as you. Examples could include illegal aliens, criminals avoiding warrants, those hiding from abusive situations, and those trying to leave behind a poor work or financial history.

4. Business or Commercial Identity Theft — Businesses are also victims of identity theft. Typically the perpetrator obtains credit cards or checking accounts in the name of the business, which doesn’t find out until unhappy suppliers send out collection notices, or their business rating score is affected.

Criminals can obtain your identifying information from many different places, including your doctor, accountant, lawyer, dentist, school, workplace, or health insurance carrier. You need not lose your wallet or have had anything tangible stolen from you for your identity to be stolen. If you do not shred your utility bills, credit card slips, and other confidential documents, a “dumpster diver” could find this information and commit fraud against you.

If you become aware of a fraud (usually when you are contacted by a creditor, denied credit, or see strange charges on your bills), immediately contact the three major credit reporting agencies to put an alert on your credit profile. Obtain copies of the reports so you know which are the accounts in question, and call the police in the county where the fraud occurs. Unfortunately, you may not be able to stop the fraud immediately.

Many insurance companies have begun offering coverage to help repair your identity, a process which costs $15,000 on average. For a very minimal premium, you can add this coverage to your insurance policy. Please contact your local insurance professional to discuss this potential exposure. IBI