Deter. Detect. Defend. These are the tools the government is urging you to use to fight back against identity theft. Identity fraud affects 10 million people per year causing $50 billion in losses to businesses and $5 billion in costs to consumers trying to fight the damage to their credit. With these rates its not IF but WHEN it will happen to you or someone else in your family.
Many homeowners’ insurance companies such as Safeco and Travelers offer special endorsements to include Identity Fraud to help you fight the damage (legal fees, notary fees, certified mail fees, long distance calls, lost wages to address problems, loan fees to resubmit, etc.). However, the coverage can be exhausted as some thefts yield hundreds of fraudulent debts that take months and months to reverse. And of course these endorsements don’t pay the debts for you nor do they cover your emotional stress and opportunity costs for losing access to good credit.
The best advice is check out the Federal Trade Commission’s website and learn how to Deter. Detect. Defend. Deter: Don’t carry your social. Shred financial docs. Don’t give out your info online. Detect: Check your credit report for free here. Review financial accounts regularly. Defend: Call credit bureaus for fraud alert. Close accounts. File a police report (LAPD identity fraud link). Notify the Federal Trade Commission.
Bottom-line: treat your info like you would cash – safeguard it.