Identity theft can make any day Black Friday
Holiday hustle & bustle is gift-getting season for identity thieves. As you’re caught up in shopping, so are they – and they are shopping for credit information and documents so they can impersonate you and steal. Many homeowners and renters insurance policies provide some coverage for the theft of money or credit cards, and stand-alone identity theft insurance is also available.
Identity theft is the unauthorized use of someone’s personal information for financial gain, and it is on the rise. In its 2012 Identity Fraud Report, Javelin Strategy & Research found a nearly 13% increase in fraud last year. Interestingly, the overall dollar amount of fraud is at its lowest point – at $18 billion. This is likely because while more identity fraud is occurring, it is for the less severe types of fraud, such as misuse of a victim’s existing credit or debit card. As a result, the average out-of-pocket cost suffered per fraud victim has decreased, dropping to $354 in 2011 from $637 in 2004. Still, that’s a significant amount of money if it happens to be yours.
Check your property insurance policy to see how much coverage it provides for identity theft. Typically, the amount of coverage is limited to $200 in cash and $50 on credit cards. There are also stand-alone policies that provide additional protection to reimburse fraud victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports. These types of policies also generally cover expenses for lost wages, phone bills, notary and certified mail costs, and they may cover attorney fees (with the prior consent of the insurer).
We have some tips to preventing identity theft. And, it’s worth mentioning that there are higher rates of fraud among social media users. If you play online games or participate in online surveys, beware of sharing personal information. Even something seemingly innocuous, like asking for your mother’s maiden name or the name of your high school name, is information that can be used to gain access to financial information.
Being vigilant online is important, and so is keeping track of your physical belongings as you shop the mall. A great deal of identity theft fraud starts the old-fashioned way – with lost or stolen items that contain personal details. It’s not just your wallet or purse that thieves can swipe; it’s also your smartphone that is a security risk.