IDENTITY THIEVES STEAL YOUR HOLIDAY SPIRIT
State Insurance Regulators Encourage Consumers to Take
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Dec. 11, 2007) — It
might be the season of giving, but a new survey shows a majority of
Americans are actually worried about what might be taken from them.
According to new research by the National Association of Insurance
Commissioners, 57 percent of U.S. adults say they are concerned about
being a victim of identity theft during the holiday season and 66 percent
believe they are more at risk when making purchases online.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 8.3 million Americans were
victims of identity theft in 2005. Every year, victims of identity theft
struggle to recoup financial losses and repair damages to their credit
standing. To alleviate the burdens — which include out-of-pocket costs,
lost wages and other expenses associated with reestablishing lost credit
and/or identity — several companies offer identity theft insurance. There
are also simple precautions everyone should take to avoid becoming a
“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United
States, affecting consumers of all ages,” said NAIC President and Kansas
Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger. “It’s critical for consumers to know
how to protect themselves and reduce the risk of becoming a victim.”
The NAIC’s national survey, which polled a nationally representative
sample of 500 adults, age 18 and older, from Nov. 16-22, 2007, also
- If seeking insurance coverage for identity theft, 38 percent of
respondents said they would look to insurance companies, 34 percent said
they would look to credit card companies and 27 percent said they would
look to banks.
- 32 percent said they were victims or knew someone who had been a
victim of identity theft in the past five years. Of those consumers:
- 46 percent said their identity theft exceeded $1,000.
- 42 percent said it took three months or longer to resolve
“Repairing the damages caused by identity theft can be a lengthy,
financially straining process,” said NAIC Executive Vice President and CEO
Catherine J. Weatherford. “Taking precautions can save time, money and
stress during the busy holiday shopping season and year-round.”
Understanding the Basics of Identity Theft
Identity theft, sometimes referred to as identity fraud, is a crime
that involves someone using your personal information — such as your name,
Social Security number, credit card number or other financial account
information — without your permission to commit fraud and/or other
Identity theft occurs in many forms, such as someone using your stolen
personal information to apply for loans or purchase items using your
credit card number, along with many other fraudulent activities.
The NAIC offers the following tips to help consumers protect their
NAIC Tips to Protect Your Identity
- Know what’s in your wallet. Avoid carrying your
Social Security number in your wallet or purse. This number provides
access to personal information, and it should be stored in a safe and
protected place. In addition, only carry the credit cards you need. This
practice limits access to your accounts in the event that your purse or
wallet is lost or stolen. It’s also a good idea to periodically
photocopy your cards and keep a record of the customer service phone
numbers associated with your financial accounts to speed up the process
of cancelling credit cards, if needed.
- Shred, shred, shred. Open all mail and read it
carefully—even the items that might appear to be junk mail could contain
personal offers. Any items with personal information, such as
pre-approved credit offers, bank statements or utility bills should be
shredded before being discarded.
- Be suspicious of solicitors. You should never give
personal information or your Social Security number to people unless you
have verified that they are trustworthy. This advice applies to sharing
information over the phone, in-store or online.
- Monitor your revolving accounts and credit score.
Check your bank, credit card and other financial account information,
along with your credit score, once a year to reduce the risk of
unauthorized charges or credit applications. If you see a suspicious
charge, immediately contact your financial institution.
- Take action against unauthorized actions. If you
notice a new account has been opened in your name without your
permission, immediately contact one of the three major credit
bureaus—Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—and ask that a “fraud alert” be
placed on your record. Once the alert is placed, the other two bureaus
will be notified, and creditors will be required to contact you directly
before opening new accounts or making changes to existing accounts. In
addition, file a police report and submit a complaint to the Federal
Trade Commission. You also might consider enrolling in paid services
that monitor your credit report and alert you when someone applies for
credit in your name or account information is altered.
- Surf the Internet safely. Millions of people are
online at any given time, some of whom are thieves looking to steal your
identity. These hackers can be found collecting information from
unsuspecting “pop-ups,” surfing unsecured networks or hacking into
retail Web sites. Be sure to always use a secured network, and
frequently update firewall protections on your computer. Also limit the
amount of personal information you post on networking Web sites.
- Consider purchasing identity theft insurance.
Several insurance companies offer identity theft insurance. Although it
cannot protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft, this
insurance provides coverage for the cost of reclaiming your financial
identity, such as the expenses of placing phone calls, making copies,
mailing documents, taking time off from work without pay and hiring an
attorney. As with any insurance policy, make sure you understand what
you are purchasing and compare prices, coverages and deductibles among
About the NAIC
Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, the National Association of
Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is a voluntary organization of the chief
insurance regulatory officials of the 50 states, the District of Columbia
and five U.S. territories. The NAIC’s overriding
objective is to assist state insurance regulators in protecting consumers
and helping maintain the financial stability of the insurance industry by
offering financial, actuarial, legal, computer, research, market conduct
and economic expertise. Formed in 1871, the NAIC is the oldest association
of state officials. For more than 135 years, state-based insurance
supervision has served the needs of consumers, industry and the business
of insurance at-large by ensuring hands-on, frontline protection for
consumers, while providing insurers the uniform platforms and coordinated
systems they need to compete effectively in an ever-changing marketplace.
For more information, visit NAIC at www.naic.org/press_home.htm.
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