Executive Director’s Commentary
By Don Eversmann, F240000
Stories about identity theft seem to be making the news on a regular basis these days. Now FMCA’s Membership/Member Services Committee has found a plan for FMCA members that will provide protection against identity theft and assist members in restoration if they become a victim. The plan lets FMCA members purchase identity theft protection at a considerably reduced price.
Identity theft occurs when someone possesses or uses your name, address, Social Security number, bank or credit card account number, or other identifying information without your knowledge with the intent to commit fraud or other crimes. An independent study in 1999, commissioned by Image Data LLC, an identity theft prevention service, found that approximately one out of every five Americans, or a member of their families, has been victimized by identity theft.
On January 26, 2005, the Better Business Bureau, in conjunction with Javelin Strategy and Research, released its identity theft survey, which indicated that within the past 12 months 9.3 million Americans, or 4.25% of the U.S. population, were victims of identity theft.
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. Identity theft topped the U.S. government’s list of consumer fraud for the fifth consecutive year. We frequently read newspaper headlines related to the subject and hear about it on the radio and television. Unfortunately, the modern technology that has given us quick and easy methods of communication also has opened many doors to our identity. Recent large-scale data leaks have us all wondering whether we are at risk and how to protect ourselves.
Regardless of today’s technology, by far the majority of identity thefts continue to be of the “no-tech” variety. Lost or stolen wallets, purses, checkbooks, and credit cards represent 68 percent of all identity thefts. Anyone with a name and a Social Security number can become a victim, including children and teens.
Usually when an individual’s identity is stolen, the responsibility for resolving the problem rests almost solely on the shoulders of the victim. Most identity theft is detected by the victim.
The financial services industry has addressed the problem in several ways, one of which is through the development of identity theft protection products and services. These programs generally offer benefits in four categories: prevention, detection, resolution, and insurance. Benefits generally include some combination of protective software for one’s computer; a paper shredder; credit reports; credit alerts; online information and tools; online/e-mailed newsletters; toll-free telephone counseling and/or restoration services; and expense reimbursement insurance. These services typically cost $8 to $15 per month. However, because FMCA is able to keep its costs very low, members can purchase Privacy Matters, one of the most comprehensive plans available, at a significant savings.
For a low monthly fee, it includes the following:
Identity Theft Prevention
- Free computer software, including Panda firewall, antivirus, and antispyware.
Identity Theft Detection
- Daily credit monitoring and weekly fraud alerts “” online and offline.
- Unlimited three-in-one credit reports from all three major reporting bureaus “” instant online delivery and offline.
- Social Security reports.
Identity Theft Restoration
- Credit card registration “” which reduces time and effort involved in notifying multiple card carriers by making it possible to do so with just one phone call.
- Credit card replacement “” when a member’s credit card has been lost or stolen and the account is thus frozen, the service has a new card issued to the member for their use.
- Counseling or full restoration services “” an experienced, licensed investigator assigned to restore the member’s identity and credit record; comprehensive service from Kroll to help identity theft victims recover from identity theft fraud. The customer can choose either turnkey service or a counseling-only option.
Identity Theft Insurance Coverage
- Up to $25,000 ($100 deductible) identify theft expense reimbursement insurance provided as a bonus at no extra cost to the member. Insurance coverage is underwritten by Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America and its property casualty affiliates, Hartford, Connecticut.
The regular retail price for this service is $9.95 per month, with an additional $5 monthly fee to cover the individual’s spouse. For FMCA members, the cost is $4.95 per month, with an additional $2 monthly fee for the spouse. A onetime fulfillment fee of $4.95 (which covers both member and spouse) applies.
We all need to be more careful in going about our everyday business. I feel certain that we can all take measures to decrease our likelihood of becoming an identity theft victim. As such, I would like to share nine identity theft prevention tips:
1. Mail any payments for bills that contain a check or account information from a secure location such as a locked mailbox, a post office, or a drop box.
2. Check your account statements carefully each month to make sure all charges and transactions are accurate. Also be aware that a missing credit card bill could mean that an identity thief has changed your billing address.
3. Shred any documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.
4. Never give your Social Security number, account number, password, or PIN over the phone unless you initiate the call. Identity thieves may call posing as officials of banks or government agencies.
5. Check with your employer, landlord, and others who have access to your personal data to ensure that your records are kept safe.
6. When you order new checks, do not have them sent to your home. Pick them up at the bank.
7. When creating passwords or PINs, use random letters and numbers. Do not use information that may be easily guessed by thieves, such as your birthday or street address. Don’t share your passwords or PINs with anyone.
8. When making purchases online, be sure you are on a secure Web site before entering any of your account information or other personal details. Also, don’t use public computers to access your financial accounts online, because they may not be secure. Spyware or strangers looking over your shoulder can steal your access information.
9. Make regular or recurring payments through automated methods whenever possible. This reduces the number of checks you send through the mail and reduces the risk of mail fraud.
We believe that the Privacy Matters identity theft program is a perfect way for you to protect your credit rating and your good name. Should you fall prey to an identity thief, the program will provide you with expert assistance to help you recover.
For further information, see the ad on page 13 of this magazine; call FMCA’s Member Services department at (800) 543-3622; or e-mail [email protected] and ask for an Identity Theft Protection Plan brochure and application.