FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK, December 4, 2013
—Holiday shoppers can reduce their chances of becoming victims of identity theft by carefully protecting their private financial information, according to the Insurance Information Institute
Identity (ID) theft schemes often rely on obtaining a shopper’s credit card data. But there are many other ways of accessing an unsuspecting victim’s private financial information, such as online “phishing” scams—where thieves use email inquiries purporting to be from a financial organization to obtain sensitive account information. And with mobile financial transactions now becoming commonplace, the theft of a smart phone is another way criminals can gain access to your private information in order to use your identity illegally.
“Consumers should constantly monitor their bank balances and credit card bills, confirming that all the transactions attributed to them actually occurred,” said Michael Barry, vice president, Media Relations, I.I.I.
The Javelin Strategy & Research
2013 Identity Fraud Report found that in excess of 12 million Americans were victimized by ID theft in 2012, a million more than in 2011. The 2012 figure was the second highest number in the 10 years Javelin has been issuing these reports.
To help protect your identity this holiday season, the I.I.I. has the following tips:
1. Proceed with caution when shopping online. Make sure you are buying products or services from a reputable, familiar company with a secure network. And never buy anything online from a website that does not have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. (You will know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://).
2. Monitor your accounts. Do not rely on your credit card company, or bank, to alert you of suspicious activity. Monitor your bank and credit card statements to make sure all transactions are accurate. If you suspect a problem, contact your credit card company or bank immediately.
3. Be cautious with personal information. Whether on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet, do not divulge sensitive information or your social security number unless you initiated the contact, are familiar with the person or company and are confident that they have a secure line.
A number of insurers now include coverage for identity theft as part of a standard homeowners or renters insurance policy. Other companies sell it as an endorsement to the policy policy, which can run about $25-$50 annually.
Identity theft insurance, when purchased as a stand-alone policy, often provides reimbursement to crime victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports. It generally covers expenses such as phone bills, lost wages, notary and certified mailing costs, and sometimes attorney fees (with the prior consent of the insurer). Some insurance companies also offer restoration or resolution services to guide you through the process of recovering your identity. An insurance professional can help you find out what kind of coverage you may already have or offer details on what additional coverage you need.
Most homeowners and renters policies provide coverage for theft of money or credit cards; however, the amount of coverage is limited (usually $200 in cash and $50 on credit cards). Once you have reported the loss or theft of your credit card to the issuing company, you are responsible for only $50 of unauthorized use.
The I.I.I.’s free mobile apps can help you create a disaster plan, learn about selecting the right insurance for your needs and budget, and create and maintain a home inventory. Learn more about our suite of apps here.
The I.I.I. has a full library of educational videos on its You Tube Channel. Information about I.I.I. mobile apps can be found here.
THE I.I.I. IS A NONPROFIT, COMMUNICATIONS ORGANIZATION SUPPORTED BY THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.
Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-5500; www.iii.org