METLIFE auto & home offers ten tips to prevent Identity theft
WARWICK, R.I.- ID theft is the fastest-growing crime in America. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) statistics estimate that almost ten million Americans were victims of some sort of identity theft last year, and also, that Hispanics are more likely to be victimized by ID theft than other ethnic group. Surprisingly, the majority of identity theft cases do not result in out-of-pocket expenses for victims--what most victims lose is time and their sense of personal security.
“Clearing your name after an identity theft can be a very complicated and disruptive process,” said William D. Moore, president of MetLife Auto & Home®. “There are a lot of people to notify, including creditors, credit bureaus, and law enforcement. It can take many months--or possibly years--before you get your life back in order, and clear your name. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to avoid ever becoming a victim in the first place, and also services, including services with Spanish-speaking representatives, that can help you restore your name should you become a victim.”
For information about identity theft, including an Identity Theft Prevention Checklist, Spanish-speaking individuals can visit espanol.metlife.com/identidad, or call toll-free 1-866-Met-Vida to contact a personal representative. To reduce the likelihood of being a victim of identity theft:
• Be careful with your social security number. Avoid carrying your social security card in your wallet, and don’t print your number on personal checks.
• Only release your social security number when it’s absolutely necessary. Legally, almost no one has the right to require it, and most merchants and companies have the ability to do a background check without it.
• If a merchant asks for your social security number, ask why it’s necessary, and what safeguards they have in place to protect your information.
• Minimize the number of credit cards you have, and only carry one or two in your wallet. It’s a good idea to keep a list of all your credit cards, bank accounts, and investments in a safe place.
• Never leave envelopes containing bills and checks in places where there’s a danger of their being stolen. Consider mailing your bills at the post office, rather than leaving them for your letter carrier at your front door or mailbox.
• Think about computer safety--never use obvious or easily guessed passwords or PINs, and always create passwords that combine letters and numbers.
• Be wary of “phishing” schemes. Phishing is a fast-growing type of fraud that usually starts as an email or pop-up designed to trick you into revealing personal financial details. Never reply to emails asking for personal details, or even click on links in emails that appear suspicious.
• Be careful what you throw away! Trash is a prime target for identity thieves, so take the time to shred all paperwork containing sensitive information, including pre-approved credit offers. The most secure shredders are “cross cut” shredders, because they ensure that the documents cannot be reassembled.
• Carefully review financial statements each month for unauthorized use, including your credit cards, bank statements, and phone bills. Alert your creditors immediately, in the event that you notice a discrepancy.
• Do a “check up” on your credit history once every year. Securing this information is easy--simply visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. You’ll be able to get one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus.
Another important consideration: determine whether you have protection in the event that you are victimized. Many credit card companies offer protection against identity theft. Ask your credit card agent or company representative if yours does. In addition, some insurance companies now offer identity theft assistance as part of their automobile or homeowners insurance policies. This assistance can prove invaluable, because it can help guide victims through the arduous process of reclaiming their good names. MetLife Auto & Home was the first insurer to offer ID theft resolution service at no additional premium on its homeowners, renter’s, and condos policies, and recently added the service to all auto policies, in all states where approved.
“Having a Spanish-speaking representative work with you to restore your good name can provide you with greater peace of mind, as well as lessen the time that it will take to resolve the problem.” said Moore. “This advocate will work with you, to make certain that all the appropriate steps are taken, including notifying the appropriate authorities, tracking and monitoring credit files, and working with grantors of credit until the situation is resolved.”
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