As personal information continues to populate the World Wide Web, identity security in the Technology Era has become a rising priority. Identity theft has increased over the past two years, further increasing the necessity for cyber security and awareness.
In 2013 alone, 13 million consumers were affected by identity theft. $18 billion dollars was reported in fraudulent charges, averaging about $2,294 and 11 hours of work to resolve per case.
Half the time, theft of your personal information is either due to the loss of a wallet, checkbook, credit card or other physical document. The rest of the time, the identity theft is conducted online, often as a result of online shopping. When your identity and security are compromised, there are many aspects of your financial and personal life at stake. Identity theft can be used to literally impersonate an individual, steal bank accounts, establish insurance policies, open unauthorized credit cards, and obtain unauthorized loans.
The consequences and repercussions of identity theft can be devastating. Your credit score can be drastically lowered and it can take years to get your financial and bank records corrected. You might face difficulty in the future trying to obtain a loan or even find employment because of fraudulent charges and identity theft. Don’t let your livelihood become compromised because of the victimization of your personal information.
The identity theft statistics are steadily rising each year, so ensure that your finances are secure by following a few precautionary methods:
- Be conscientious with your monthly bills,
- Review your bank and credit card statements habitually to ensure all transactions are legitimate. This will help you become familiar with your transaction history as to more easily spot outliers.
- When paying for transactions online or on a smart device, wiping the cache of stored data frequently will assist in keeping private information secure.
- Be vigilant with any personal information stored on cell phones, and be sure to remotely wipe devices if they are lost or stolen.
Homeowners insurance and renters policies do often include coverage for fraud, but the amount is limited, usually to $200 cash and $50 on each credit card. When you report fraud to the credit card company, they will cover fraudulent charges after the first $50. Be aware if your identity theft insurance is part of an existing policy, or if you need to add a stand alone policy for coverage. A stand alone or endorsement policy can run $25-$50 annually. Contact ERM Insurance today to discuss your identity theft coverage.
Victims of an identity theft crime are usually reimbursed for related expenses, including:
- Phone bills,
- Lost wages,
- Notary and certified mailing costs,
- Fees incurred when replying for loans,
- Credit instruments used,
- And attorney fees if applicable.
Limits on your policy range from $100 thousand to $1 million, depending on your specific coverage. Restoration and resolutions services are available as well to assist in the process of recovering your identity. If you suspect your information has been compromised, contact one of our Orange County Insurance brokers.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips are now used in magnetic cards instead of the original magnet strips initially implemented on credit cards. Though this makes transactions with vendors more efficient and quick, it also exposes your credit card information to less security. Thieves can use simple electronic devices to capture your information in the blink of an eye, potentially right in front of you without your knowledge.
Phishing and pharming are two common methods criminals use online to take advantage of your information. Criminals make fake email accounts and contact you in an attempt to impersonate legitimate corporations and organizations. Always beware of emails and instant messages from unknown sources that reach out to you, grasping to make a connection, or asking for financial help to alleviate a dire situation. These instant messages and emails are contrived to trap unknowing individuals in financial jeopardy, and are often spam.
Don’t carry or store unnecessary personal info in your wallet, purse, or in your pockets unless immediately necessary. The less your social security card, passport, and extraneous credit cards leave the security of your home, the better.
Shield your cards at the ATM, and beware of who is surrounding you when discussing private or financial matters on the telephone; don;t fall prey to “shoulder surfers”
Never throw ATM or credit card receipts into a public trash bin. Don’t leave them at the machine or on the counter, either. There is information at hand you are leaving prey to theft.
Avoid relaying personal, financial, or password information over email, as it can be remotely accessed through viruses and other means without you knowing.
Online shopping leaves many opportunities for financial information to be compromised. Check if the the site you are shopping from has a link beginning with “http” or “https”. The “s” stands for secure and is represented with a locked padlock icon in the url bar. This signifies that the site is authenticated . You can contact the owner of the site to confirm its security.
Updating your computer’s firewall, anti-spyware and antivirus software is just as important as installing it. Keep your technology’s security systems current for best results.
Don’t wait for the fraud to happen and the credit card company to contact you. Proactively monitor your bills to ensure all transactions are legitimate.
Shred any and all documents you wish to dispose of that contain any personal, financial or private information
Since 2004, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit score a year. It is recommended that three copies of your credit score are obtained from credible bureaus, such as Equifax, TransUnion, Experian. This report compiles information on where you live, where you are employed, what credit accounts are in your name, how your bills are paid, and your financial history and background. Gaining awareness of your credit report is crucial to understanding if your identity has been compromised. Make sure this information is accurate at least once a year, containing only activities you have authorized.
To inhibit identity theft before it starts, you can place a fraud alert on your credit report. By law, the fraud department you contact must also contact two other agencies, and then these three agencies are notified to contact you if any new accounts are opened, or changes are made to existing accounts.
If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, please report the crime immediately to your credit card issuer and the police.
To learn more about identity theft insurance, contact ERM Insurance Brokers at (949) 222-0444.