Consulting firm Javelin Strategies and Research reports more than 11 million people are affected by identity theft each year, at a cost of $54 billion to the victims. In trying to deal with this threat, the insurance industry has developed products to help a policyholder recover from this kind of loss.
The monetary loss is not the only issue with identity theft. A victim can spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours trying to clean up credit records due to the thief using personal information to obtain credit with no intention of repayment, thus destroying the victim’s financial reputation. Identity theft insurance protection is designed to help you with this problem by covering expenses and sometimes professional services that will help the victim recover from this type of loss.
Even with coverage provided, following simple steps can help protect you from this threat:
Shredding documents. Anything that contains sensitive information absolutely must be destroyed. There are specific documents that must always find their way to the shredder.
- Old Tax Returns. Unless the IRS suspects you of fraud in your tax filings, you are usually only exposed to the threat of an audit for three years at a time. The National Endowment for Financial Education advises you to keep three to four years of tax returns, and shred anything older. Your tax return contains sensitive information, primarily social security numbers.
- Bank Statements. Anything with bank account numbers should be shredded, including paper bank statements.
- Credit Card Offers. These offers should go from the mailbox directly to the shredder, unless you are actually going to take the bank up on its offer. A lot of identity theft happens within families, so don’t leave these offers laying around.
- Old Photo IDs. These IDs contain information, which by itself is probably not enough to be damaging, but used with other information could help perpetrate a fraud.
- Pay Stubs. Absolutely shred your pay stubs. Some financial institutions will ask you (or the identity thief) the amount of your last deposit to use as a validation. A past pay stub can give that information.
- Credit Card Convenience Checks. The most dangerous things you can receive in your mailbox are convenience checks often sent with your credit card bill. These represent a live loan to whoever holds this check. Shred these immediately.
- Canceled Checks. Canceled checks contain not only your account and routing numbers, but also your address and possibly your phone number. People often include their full account or credit card number in the memo section when paying with a check. Do your duplicate checks display your account and routing numbers? Don’t overlook those carbon copies.
Prevention of identity theft is the obvious goal, but if you desire that extra peace-of-mind, let us know and we’ll make sure Identity Theft Coverage is included on your policy.