In 2004, more than 10 million Americans became victims of identity theft, costing businesses and consumers nearly $53 billion. Recent breaches at major corporations have put many consumers on edge over one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes in the United States.
The average identity theft victim spends 30 hours, spread over days and weeks, trying to correct problems caused by ID theft. That is time taken away from their families, from their work and from their already disrupted lives.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Victims of ID theft are left to pick up the pieces that thieves have made of their good name and credit record. In the interim, ID theft victims may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.
To help prevent becoming a victim of identity theft, Allstate Insurance Company offers the following tips that can help consumers better protect themselves:
* Do not carry un-needed credit cards,
* Cancel your unused, lost or stolen credit card accounts immediately,
* Keep important personal documents in a secure place and do not carry originals or duplicates in your wallet,
* Check your credit history periodically,
* Report unauthorized activity,
* Store receipts in a safe place, and
* Never give your social security number out, especially not on the telephone or over the Internet when you have not initiated the contact.
Insurance companies and other agencies now offer identity theft expense coverage for victims of ID theft. What does identity theft expense coverage do for victims? According to Federal Trade Commission data, only 13 percent of identity theft victims contact credit agencies after learning their personal information has been misused. Many victims of identity theft don't know where or how to start the recovery process.
For as little as $40 per year, identity theft expense insurance coverage assists victims of ID theft in the following manners:
* Help victims understand their rights,
* File paperwork, including police reports,
* Issue fraud alerts to credit reporting agencies, Social Security Administration, Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Post Office, credit card companies and banks,
* Work with credit agencies to correct and restore your credit,
* Review credit histories for irregularities, and
* Trace Social Security numbers, notifying and working with the Department of Motor Vehicles, collection agencies, creditors and law enforcement personnel.
Simple preventative measures can keep identity thieves at bay. Knowing your rights and the steps you can take to restore your good name and credit is valuable piece of mind.