How to Insure Your Good Name From Thieves and Scammers
NORTHBROOK, Ill. - You work hard to make sure your credit rating is high. You pay your bills on time, pay down your debt and stay within your budget.
Then one day your mail arrives with bills from credit card and utility companies. Someone has stolen your identity – and has built up debt in your name.
This scenario is not unusual. In a Federal Trade Commission report, in fact, the State of Arizona ranked No. 1 in identity theft in 2006 nationally, with six Arizona metropolitan areas (with a population of 100,000 or more) ranking in the nation’s top 20 for consumer complaints. They are, in order: Flagstaff; Prescott; Sierra Vista-Douglas; Lake Havasu City- Kingman; Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale; and Tucson.
The cost of recovering your identity can be staggering. But fortunately, this cost can be covered by insurance.
“Although you may not be liable for any money stolen, it can be expensive to prove you’re the victim of fraud and to restore a damaged credit rating,” said Cynthia Young, president, Encompass Insurance.
She adds that you may have to take time off from work to meet with law enforcement, credit agencies or legal counsel; pay for legal representation against lawsuits brought by merchants or collection agencies; or pay to remove criminal or civil judgments wrongly entered.
“There are many other costs, too,” Young warns, “and they can add up quickly.”
Encompass Insurance offers identity fraud coverage for about $25 as an endorsement to a homeowner policy. In most states, this endorsement will pay up to $20,000 for expenses you incur as a direct result of an identity fraud act or series of acts. There is a special deductible of $100 per incident for this coverage; no other deductibles apply.
To help protect against identity theft, Encompass Insurance provides the following tips:
Carefully review your bank and credit card statements monthly, and notify the institution immediately of any unauthorized activity.
Write “Ask for photo ID” next to your signature on the back of your credit cards.
Ask credit card companies and financial institutions to include photo identification on your bank and credit cards.
Always take your credit card receipts.
Ask your bank to send your bank statement and other communications to you electronically rather than through the mail. You can usually do this by visiting your bank’s website, viewing your account and choosing the “paperless” option.
Keep documents containing personal information, credit card account information and PIN numbers in a safe place.
Minimize the amount of personal information you give out, especially online.
When ordering by phone or online, use a credit card rather than a debit card because there are greater protections with a credit card.
Never give bank or credit card account information over the phone unless you initiated the call and know the business.
Guard your Social Security number, the key to identity theft. Don’t carry your Social Security card with you, don’t give out your Social Security number unless it’s required for employment, a bank account or other legitimate purpose; and don’t put your Social Security number on your driver’s license.
Shred everything with personal identifying information before discarding.
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