By Luke Brown
Homeowners Insurance | In recent years newspaper headlines, TV and radio news stories, and government warnings have reported on what seems to be an epidemic of identity theft (sometimes called “identity fraud”). In fact, Florida has the dubious distinction of being number one in the nation for identity theft.
The misappropriation of an individual’s identity and all that is associated with that is not all that new. In fact, it was spoken of hundreds of years ago when Shakespeare was alive. He made reference to it in Act iii, Sc. 3 of Othello when he wrote: But he that filches from me my good name/Robs me of that which not enriches him/And makes me poor indeed.
What Is Identity Theft?
Just because a term like “identity theft” is frequently used does not mean that its definition is clear. American Integrity Insurance Company offers this explanation to make it easier for you to understand what identity theft or identity fraud means in practice: all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
As examples, identity theft or fraud can include one, some, or all of these kinds of acts:
- Obtaining and using your birth certificate
- Obtaining and using your Social Security number
- Getting and using your credit or debit card number
- Obtaining and using your bank account information
- Getting your investment account information and tampering with or draining it
No matter what the act, it is done by another person or entity for their gain and without your authorization and often, without your knowledge.
Even if Shakespeare’s reference in Othello was allegorical, it has proven prophetic. There are simple means such as dumpster diving or stealing mail. There is advanced technology allowing for credit card skimmers, data breaches of financial institutions, phishing schemes, pharming schemes (involving a hacker tampering with a website host file or domain name system so that the URL address requests are rerouted to a fake internet site). The risk is everywhere.
Dangers and Consequences of Identity Theft or Identity Fraud
The most obvious and immediate risk of identity theft or identity fraud is a loss of money. The loss can occur from bank accounts being drained, liquidation of investment accounts, or by unauthorized use of credit cards.
In especially egregious cases, not only is money stolen or indebtedness incurred but the thief assumes the whole identity of the victim. The U.S. Department of Justice has reported cases in which the identity thief commits unrelated crimes. When caught for the unrelated one, he or she shows “proof” of his or her identity. But the identity shown is yours. Therefore, you may be accused of a criminal act, become embroiled in the criminal justice system, incur expenses, and suffer damage to your reputation at least until the facts have been sorted out and rectified.
Irrespective of whether the identity theft involves “merely” a loss of money or a wholesale misappropriation of your identity, American Integrity Insurance Company realizes that you, our client, have been violated on a very personal level. There is no “merely” involved.
Tips to Avoid Identity Theft or Identity Fraud
The Insurance Information Institute (III) offers the following tips to help you from becoming a victim of identity theft or identity fraud:
- Minimize the amount of personal information that you carry with you. Plan your trips and leave unneeded credit cards at home. Never carry your Social Security card or passport with you without a particular reason.
- Guard your credit cards and ATM cards when using them. While shopping amidst crowds, there are lots of “shoulder surfers” anxious to get your personal information.
- Take your credit card and ATM receipts. Destroy them at home if you want to, but make sure that others cannot get to them.
- Make online purchases only from authenticated online merchants. Make sure that the URL starts with https:// or that there is a locked padlock in the browser bar.
American Integrity recommends that you read all of III’s tips here.
American Integrity to the Rescue
In the unfortunate event that you become a victim of identity theft or identity fraud, statistics show that it often requires 55 hours or more of work to restore your identity. It can also cost thousands of dollars in addition to money lost in the scheme.
Identity theft (and identity fraud) coverage is a part of every American Integrity Insurance Company homeowners policy that includes the Silver, Gold, and Diamond Endorsement Bundles. The coverage can also be obtained as an endorsement for a nominal additional premium on standard homeowners policies. Check your policy today to find out if you have this important coverage.
At American Integrity Insurance, Florida home insurance is not just what we do - it's who we are. As Floridians, we understand the occasional risks of living here and prudently manage our business to ensure that we have the financial strength to serve our customers in times of loss. Find an agent near you - click here!