When you are born, you're given a name which not only has meaning for you and your family, it also establishes your identity. Unfortunately, your name and identity are equally important to criminals who seek to take advantage of both.
Identity theft is when someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's information in a fraudulent or deceptive manner.
The personal information is typically used for financial gain. A recent study by the Identity Theft Resource Center showed seven million Americans become victims of identity theft every year.
Ways thieves can steal your name and personal information:
- Rummage through your trash to find old bank statements
- Steal your mail or wallet to obtain account numbers
- Eavesdrop on a conversation to learn enough to intrude upon your life
Even if the thief is caught, victims often spend a lot of time and money clearing their name. If your identity is stolen, you can expect to spend an average of 600 hours over the next few years clearing your name, and an average of $1,400 in out-of-pocket expenses.
Identity theft can affect your financial security for years to come
The residual financial effects of identity theft can be long-lasting. Identity theft can have a significant impact on your plans to save and invest in your family’s financial security. Money you have earned for saving or investments, such as your retirement or your child’s education fund, may end up paying for these collateral costs:
- Credit card companies might increase your fees.
- You might be denied a new job if ID theft negatively affects your credit rating.
- Lenders might charge you higher interest rates.
- Some collection agencies might refuse to clear your records despite substantiating evidence of the crime.
In addition to the financial strain, identity theft can also leave emotional scars. Victims have often reported the same mental conditions which afflict victims of physical assault. Common feelings include shame and embarrassment.
Steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim:
- Check your credit report at least once a year.
- Guard your social security number. When possible, don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or purse.
- Watch what you throw in the trash. Make sure all trash containing personal information is shredded.
- Only deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at the post office. Never leave mail in an unsecured box.
- Use caution on the Internet. Update anti-virus software regularly, and only give out financial information over a secure browser (you can tell if a browser is secure if the Web site address starts with https).
- Obtain identity theft protection from your insurance provider.
Protect your financial future
We offer two types of protection:
- We reimburse you for certain expenses as a result of becoming a victim
- We connect you with an advocacy service which specializes in assisting people restore their good name
For product and service information, read our Terms & Conditions.