Des Moines, Iowa-based Hawkeye-Security Insurance and Indiana Insurance, both members of the Liberty Mutual Group, are urging holiday shoppers to raise their awareness of identity theft, the fastest growing crime in America. Consumers’ increased use of credit and debit cards during the holidays combine to make the seasonal shopping an enticing environment for criminals to commit fraud.
From 2003 through 2005, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 1.8 million identity theft and fraud complaints. Identity fraud victims can also face hundreds of hours and sometimes thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs to repair their damaged credit histories.
Awareness and prevention are a policyholder’s first line of defense, contends Hawkeye-Security Insurance and the company is encouraging policyholders to consider Identity Fraud Expense Coverage, a $25 endorsement to their homeowner policy that provides up to $15,000 per occurrence, less a $250 deductible, for a variety of identity fraud-related expenses. The coverage also provides victims with assistance from personal advocates through the Theft Resolution Center.
“Customers should do what’s within their control to avoid being victimized by this growing crime, but we know they can never be completely safe,'” said David L. Lancaster, president and chief executive officer, Hawkeye-Security Insurance. “Restoring damaged financial histories can be a long, expensive ordeal, so we want our policyholders to have the option for coverage that includes help from advocates with experience in navigating an often complicated process.”
Once an identity fraud claim is reported to either company, the Theft Resolution Center’s ID911 Personal Advocates are assigned to:
Serve as a liaison between a policyholder and creditors to review accounts and make corrections;
Provide immediate notification to the three national credit bureaus, request credit freezes where available, obtain a 3-in-1 credit report from the bureaus; and,
Monitor the policyholder’s credit for a full year to help prevent further losses.
A recent study released by J.D. Power and Associates found that identity theft insurance is second only to auto insurance in the ranking of products homeowners say they would like their insurer to offer.
“Because this crime can have long-term implications for a person’s financial security, it is critical that consumers scrutinize their credit and bank statements regularly,” said Michael D. Connell, president and chief executive officer, Indiana Insurance. “Generally, the sooner an unauthorized use of personal or financial information is reported, the less damage is done and the less complicated it is to restore your financial standing.”
The Identity Fraud Expense Coverage pays for expenses incurred as a direct result of an identity fraud incident. Some of the expenses covered by the endorsement include: specified attorney fees with prior consent; employer-documented lost wages (maximum of $500 per week for up to four weeks) for work time lost to meet with law enforcement officials, attorneys, and others related to an identity fraud claim; loan application fees for reapplying for loans that were rejected due to credit fraud; and costs for notarizing official documents, using certified mail, and making long distance phone calls as part of credit restoration efforts.
Hawkeye-Security Insurance and Indiana Insurance encourage their policyholders to understand how they can minimize the risk of being victimized through careful management of personal information. This includes the following basic practices:
Be wary of unsolicited phone calls. Don’t give-out your personal information over the phone. Ask the caller to send you information in writing;
Shred all important documents and personal records prior to disposal;
Do not routinely carry your Social Security card, birth certificate, or passport;
Review your bank records often and check your credit reports at least once a year; and
When conducting business on the Internet, make sure any personal or financial information you provide is transmitted on a secure, legitimate site.
Hawkeye-Security Insurance and Indiana Insurance sell property and casualty products, including a comprehensive personal and commercial coverages.
Source: Hawkeye Security, Indiana Insurance
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