IRMI Tip of the Month: Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Image by jnatiuk via freeimages

Image by jnatiuk via freeimages

Identity theft occurs when someone appropriates another person’s personal information without their knowledge in order to commit fraud or theft. These identity thieves may open charge accounts in the victim’s name and thus borrow money and even perpetrate felonies.

The Federal Trade Commission found that complaints of identity theft have increased rapidly during the last several years. The U.S. Secret Service estimates that consumers nationwide lose hundreds of millions of dollars to identity theft each year. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the normal victim spends approximately 550 to 700 hours clearing their credit record. What can you do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim?

       Your credit record should be checked regularly to verify all the information is accurate. In addition, you should contact your creditors if your bill does not arrive in time. A missing credit card bill could mean an identity thief has taken over the credit card account and changed the billing address to cover his or her tracks.

       All old financial documents, including bank statements and credit card bills, should be shredded to reduce the exposure to what is called “dumpster diving.”

       You should not carry your Social Security card with you; rather, it should be secured in your safety deposit box.

       You should avoid using an unlocked mailbox, such as at your residence, to drop off outgoing mail, since mail can be easily stolen.

       You should not print your Social Security number or driver’s license number on your personal checks.

       Ask your insurance agent about an identity theft endorsement providing protection if your identity is stolen.

Get more personal lines insurance and risk management tips and ideas from IRMI.

Copyright 2008, International Risk Management Institute, Inc.