Make no mistake; identity theft is not something to be complacent about. Lives have fallen into financial ruin and individuals’ liberties have been taken away as a result of this crime. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America and continues to grow at a very rapid pace. A recent survey using methodology developed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that in 2009, 11.1 million U.S.adults had become victims of some form of identity theft. Aggregate losses to these victims totaled $54 billion.
If you are one of the millions of people who have had their identity stolen, there are steps you can take to help prevent, reduce, or stop the damage of identity theft. The FTC provides important information to help deter, detect and defend against identity theft. The following information was released by the FTC on their website (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ ) in response to personal identity theft, which is an excellent resource to use if you suffer from identity theft:
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Avoid disclosing personal financial information when using public wireless connections.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date. If you use peer-to-peer file sharing, check the settings to make sure you’re not sharing other sensitive private files. Visit www.OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.
Be alert to signs that require immediate attention:
- Bills that do not arrive as expected
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
- Charges on your financial statements that you don’t recognize
- Your credit report. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history.
- The law requires the major nationwide credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to give you a free copy of your credit report every 12 months if you ask for it.
- Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228, a service created by these three companies, to order your free annual credit report. You also can write:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
- If you see accounts or addresses you don’t recognize or information that is inaccurate, contact the credit reporting company and the information provider.
- Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert; a call to one company is sufficient:
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
- Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.
- Contact the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or charged without your okay. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents. Use the ID Theft Affidavit at www.ftc.gov/idtheft to support your written statement. Ask for verification that the disputed account has been dealt with and the fraudulent debts discharged. Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
- File a police report. File a report with law enforcement officials to help you correct your credit report and deal with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.
By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261
By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, DC 20580
Now that you know how to deter, detect, defend against identity theft, did you know that you can also protect yourself against this crime by adding identity theft coverage to your Homeowner insurance policy? The carrier provides a “limit” for expenses incurred by you as a direct result of any identity theft claim. The additional premium to your current policy is minimal, and can save you thousands of dollars on expenses incurred during your fight again identity theft.
For more information on insuring against identity theft, please call a Henderson Brothers representative to discuss this coverage further, or email us at [email protected].
Please note that the information contained in this document is designed to provide authoritative and accurate information, in regard to the subject matter covered. However, it is not provided as legal or tax advice and no representation is made as to the sufficiency for your specific company’s needs. This document should be reviewed by your legal counsel or tax consultant before use.