Identity theft is widely considered the fastest growing financial crime in North America today with annual losses estimated at $2 billion each year. While understanding identity theft and how to protect yourself is key in preventing and combating identity thievery, it is just as important to put protective measures in place in case you fall victim to this frustrating crime.
Identity theft occurs when a person wrongfully gets and uses another individual's personal information, and then uses some method of fraud for economic gain at the victim's expense. An identity thief seeks personal data such as a Social Insurance Number, bank account information, or credit card information. They then use this information to run up thousands of dollars in charges on a victim's credit card, deplete bank accounts, or even obtain bank loans. Victims are sometimes left with tremendous debt and scarred reputations and credit for many years to come.
To protect yourself, first and foremost use good common sense. Protect all of your personal information, including account numbers and your social security number. Don't leave bank deposit slips around for someone else to find. Tear up credit card receipts and credit card applications before disposing of them. Safeguard your driver's license and choose account PINs and ID numbers wisely, making sure they are not easily replicated.
You can also arrange identity theft insurance coverage. This insurance coverage reimburses you for costs incurred to restore your identity and repair your personal credit report in the event you become a victim to such a crime. Certain insurance companies include identity theft protection in their homeowner's insurance policies. Other insurance companies market identity theft coverage as an endorsement to homeowners or renters insurance policies, or sell protection as a stand-alone policy.
If you do find yourself a victim of identity theft, call the bank, credit card company, or agency that is affected by the questionable transaction. Make sure they understand what is going on and take steps to stop any further unwanted transactions. Then, report the crime immediately to the appropriate authorities and file a report with the local police department. Keep in mind, a copy of the police report will be required to file the claim under your insurance policy for reimbursement and credit repair purposes.
If you want to know about your Identity Fraud coverage in your Westland Insurance policy, please contact your local Westland Insurance broker.