An incredible amount has been written about the issue of identity theft. Despite law enforcement’s and the general public’s understanding of the issue, identity theft crimes continue to rise.
The personal insurance industry has responded to this growing problem in various ways, however most carriers have created endorsements adding coverage for the following to their homeowner’s policies
- Costs associated with notarizing affidavits and sending these affidavits via certified mail
- Lost income due to insured’s time off of work to deal with the consequences of the loss
- Loan re-application fees and long distance fees
- Attorney’s fees
- Services aimed at assisting insureds by directly contacting credit bureaus, creditors, etc.
While the insurance industry continues to improve coverage for identity theft, the best “medicine” is prevention and mitigation of the exposure. Here are some steps that can be taken to minimize one’s exposure to identity theft loss:
- Never place outgoing mail in your mail box
- Never give any personal information such as your social security number to anyone unless absolutely necessary and the firm is trusted and reputable
- Always shred all credit card offers received in the mail
- Obtain a credit report every year to ascertain that no one is damaging your credit
- Always use passwords to protect all of your accounts
- Be extremely vigilant about checking backgrounds of anyone with whom you propose to do business.
Should you or your client become the victim of identity theft, here is a list of actions to take:
- Contact the “Big Three” credit bureaus, including Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742, and Transunion at 800-680-7289. Alert them to place a “fraud alert” on your account
- File a report with your local police. This will help you deal with creditors who need proof of a crime
- Contact all your creditors, credit card companies, banks and other lenders
- Close any accounts tampered with or opened fraudulently
- Notify your bank of check theft and close the account immediately
- Complete the ID Theft Affidavit available through the Federal Trade Commission’s web site, www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/affisdavit.pdf
- Contact your attorney immediately to obtain professional advice
- Contact your insurance agent for possible coverage.