to Identity Theft
Stacy Wood of Talladega had no idea she would spend so many hours restoring
her credit after a thief stole her wallet in May.
Weeks later, she
still has to deal with the problem, and she has been told it will take
months before her credit can be fully restored. Thankfully, she won't
have to assume an enormous loss of money because her renter's insurance
policy will reimburse her for days missed from work, the expense of
travel involved in the recovery, and other incidentals, including the
cost of a new wallet and duplicating and filing papers.
have responded to consumer anxiety about identity theft. The problem
is growing, and consumer confidence is being shaken by news of the increased
number of security violations among financial institutions.
More than ten million
Americans have been the victims of some degree of theft, according to
a recent press release by MetLife Auto & Home. Several insurance companies
are offering policies that not only reimburse expenses incurred during
the credit restoration process, but also they offer advice about how
to prevent theft and restore credit.
Some companies provide
the coverage at no additional cost to homeowners or renters. Others
charge from about $2 to $5 a month to provide the coverage. Companies
often wait until a client's policy needs renewing before notifying them
about the addition or about the opportunity to add riders onto existing
"I started hearing
about this addition coverage at the beginning of the year," said Jonathan
Pfeiffer of Nationwide Insurance in Anniston. "It took the company about
six months to work out the details and to implement it. They rushed
do not want to wait until renewal time should call their carriers to
request the additional coverage or to learn about coverage they may
An additional safeguard
against identity theft is credit card monitoring, which alerts customers
to unusual purchases or increased purchase activity. Coverage costs
between $8 and $12 per month per card, considerably more than credit
restoration insurance coverage. Together, the two could run $10-17 or
more per month per card.
"It is easy to overindulge
in the use of insurance," said Dr. Bill Scroggins, head of the finance,
economics and accounting department at Jacksonville State University.
do so by attempting to insure away practically all of the many risks
to which they are exposed. To do so becomes cost prohibitive."
said the cost of additional coverage is reasonable when compared to
the losses from identity theft. Since credit cards can be accessed online,
said Dr. Scroggins, consumers can monitor their own cards daily or weekly
to minimize losses or risks. Consumers should also use common sense
to minimize risks by practicing good identity theft protection.
Mrs. Wood is determined
to make something good come of her bad situation.
"This has been an
education," she said. "I do not want friends and family members to have
it happen to them."
She has shared with
others the lessons she has learned, starting with how important it is
to guard the Social Security number. Because she carried hers in her
wallet, thieves were not only used her credit cards but also blocked
access to her bank account by changing the pin numbers. She also recommends
not having the Social Security number on the driver's license, a change
that can be made when the license is renewed.
The police station
in Talladega gave Ms. Wood an identity theft kit. It contains not only
information about correcting problems related to theft but also tips
on how to avoid it.
Dr. Scroggins takes
heart in that improvements are being made in technology that minimizes
and protecting data bases is a focal point of computer development and
information system instruction right now," said Dr. Scroggins.
The best insurance
against identity theft is prevention. Here are other tips:
a credit check by contacting Trans Union at www.transunion.com,
phone 1-800-888-4213: Experian www.experian.com,
phone 1-888-397-3742: or Equifax www.equifax.com,
card and bank statements closely to spot any unusual items.
police at once if fraud is committed.
credit card companies and banks at once if fraud is committed.
Shred all items
that have personal information on them before discarding.
who take your personal information if they shred discarded documents.
Trash theft is one way thieves gain information.
into a postal box rather than flagging the home mailbox.
Ask the post
office to hold mail when leaving home.
out personal information over the phone or Internet.
browsers when shopping on the Internet, and update virus protection
on home computers.
David Glass of Calhoun
County Insurance Center has brochures for concerned consumers from GuideOne.
Call 435-2242 to obtain one. Other information about identity theft,
according to the brochure, can be found at www.consumer.gov/idtheft/,
for news releases by using the request form at http://www.jsu.edu/news/requestform.html.