Earlier today, I received a phone call from a loan company asking me to verify my information so they could complete my loan application.
I had never heard of the company, nor have I applied for any loans recently. As you can imagine, I was just a little confused- and concerned!
After a few minutes or so of trying to sort things out—without exchanging any personal information—it was determined that there had been a mix-up. The company had done some sort of phone number search when trying to find a second number for the applicant and was “randomly” trying mine because we had similar names and lived in the same town. Phew! This particular incident ended up being relatively easy to handle.
But my husband and I have been dealing with a smaller type of identity theft this past year. A certain company has shown up as a fraudulent charge on our credit card AND our debit card several times in the past 12 months. All for small amounts ($8, $16…) that are barely worth calling or mentioning to the bank about. We would barely have noticed these charges if we weren’t so very vigilant going through our statements. Each time, we report them to the bank or the credit card fraud department and each time we get new cards. But then we get hit again by the same company. It is very inconvenient and frustrating to get new cards all the time. What’s even more frustrating is that if we would not have noticed- this company would have already gotten over $100 of our money. I can only imagine how much they have “earned” from all of the other people they have scammed “successfully”.
I think most people have had to deal with some type of identity theft. Maybe it’s something small… like the credit card charge. But, identity theft can be something big- like completely impersonating someone to steal from a bank account, establish an insurance policy (think life insurance), open unauthorized credit cards, or even get bank loans. In more elaborate schemes, a criminal may use your personal information to get a job, rent, or even buy (mortgage) a home.
How bad of an issue is identity theft in the US? $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million US consumers in 2015. This means a loss of $35,600 every minute. While almost half of all fraud is related to government documents or benefits; the second largest type of fraud is…not surprisingly- credit card fraud. And just so you know where WE stand… Wisconsin is ranks 12th in the number of fraud complaints on a national level.
It stands to reason that 1) with the way technology is trending to take over our lives- fraud will become an even bigger issue and 2) if you have the opportunity to protect yourself; you should do it.
Most homeowners, renters, and condo insurance policies provide endorsement opportunities for Identity Theft. This is an optional coverage that you can add onto your policy. Prices vary, depending on your carrier; however, they usually range around $30 annually and for that small fee, you receive both preventative services and identity theft restoration coverage.
Consider a couple of possibilities that you may want some assistance with:
- Debt tagging: When debt collectors target you for another person’s debt. Perhaps you have a similar name as someone else or you once lived with someone. It would be nice to have a fraud specialist run a check to determine if the debt was actually attached to your credit files and contact collection agencies to assist in updating incorrect entries.
- Marital Status Change: Any change in marital status could potentially trigger a need for identity protection services. A fraud specialist provides name-change assistance, creditor notification and help to guard against identity and fraud scams.
- Medical: A fraud specialist clears up the damage from fraudulent insurance claims and bogus medical services, stopping relentless collection agencies and correcting your treatment files before a medical catastrophe occurs.
- Travel: You’re overseas and suddenly discover a missing passport, driver’s license or credit card. Get worldwide access to a fraud specialist who helps you recover lost or stolen identification and lock out identity thieves at home or away.
- Death: Survivors have help to protect the deceased’s personal information. A fraud specialist helps obtain death certificate, reviews their credit file, clarifies existing accounts, and notifies credit bureaus of the death so you don’t have to.
There are so many stages of life where having a little help with identity protection is worth $30/year- at least in my opinion! If (God forbid) something happened and my husband passed away- $30 would be a small price to pay just to have someone to handle updating all of the credit bureaus and the credit card companies- because I’m not sure I would know what to do. I would like being able to just call the fraud specialist and have him or her take care of it for me.
And… six years ago, my husband and I were taking a taxi to the airport in St. Lucia to come home from our honeymoon when we stopped on this scenic overlook to have a soda and take some pictures. When the cabbie started walking us back to the taxi, we all suddenly realized the taxi was gone. With our luggage. With my purse. Which had our passports.
Now it turned out that our cabbie’s friends were just pulling a little prank on him and returned his cab- but for about 10 minutes there, I think my husband and I would have paid about $3,000 for fraud protection if it would have covered the travel benefits listed above- even as much as we loved St. Lucia!
Being an identity theft victim not only leaves you wanting to bang your head against the wall- it leaves you with poor credit and the inability to get credit, loans, and sometimes (depending on your employment field) the ability to get a job. If you have the opportunity to purchase additional protection for yourself and your family at an affordable price, I would definitely look into it. If you have renters, condo, or homeowners insurance- I would talk to your trusted advisor about this if you don’t already have this as an additional endorsement on your policy.
Check out Dennis Richards for affordable homeowners, condo, or renter’s insurance.