Reduce risk of becoming victim of ID theft…

***Many of the great insurance companies that we represent include identity theft coverage in the homeowners policy.  Please call 513-985-3600 to discuss further***

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Anybody can become a victim of identity theft. If it can happen to Paul Allen, it can happen to you.

Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, recently had his personal information stolen. Federal investigators allege in a complaint that Brandon Lee Price, 28, changed the address on Allen’s account at Citibank from Seattle to Pittsburgh by calling and pretending to be Allen. Price then had a new debit card in Allen’s name mailed to his Pittsburgh home.

The scheme was thwarted after the card was used to attempt a $15,000 Western Union transaction and make a $658.81 payment on a bank loan. The bank detected the fraud and contacted law-enforcement officials.

To access someone else’s bank account, an identity thief would have to have such personal information as a bank account and Social Security numbers.

“The bank should have done a better job at authenticating the caller, which would have avoided this entire situation,” said Adam Levin, co-founder and chairman, Identity Theft 911, New York.

Get in good with your bank

Levin’s advice about how to reduce your risk:

• Develop a strong relationship with your financial institution and ask what provisions protect you if you incur identity theft.

• Ask your financial institution what steps it takes to authenticate a user when accessing an account — both online and over the phone. If you don’t have a secret verbal passcode or PIN number, request to add one to your account.

• Monitor bank accounts, including debit- and credit-card accounts, daily. This simple step can stop a thief before the situation gets out of hand.

• Even people who take all the precautions they can to prevent identity theft can still become victims if someone hacks into a company’s database or their email or other online accounts.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do what we can to prevent identity theft, such as shredding financial documents.

Derick Rill, a Federal Trade Commission congressional specialist, recently met with a group of senior citizens in Boca Raton, Fla., to advise them how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

Dos and don’ts

For starters, Rill said, do not carry your Social Security or Medicare card. Keep it at home in a safe place.

Never give out your Social Security number unless the company, doctor’s office or other entity shows you a copy of its privacy policy.

Ask if customers’ private information is locked up at night. Are background checks performed on employees who have access to it? Are documents shredded when they are thrown away?

Don’t give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with, Rill said. If a caller claims to be from your bank and says the bank needs your account information, don’t fall for it. Your bank has your info. If you believe it’s true that a bank employee needs to speak with you, hang up and call the bank.

Levin said one measure of protection is to use different passwords and user names for each online account. Instead of something that’s easy to figure out such as your mother’s maiden name, create unusual user names and passwords with upper and lower case letters, numerals and symbols.

“People have a tendency to share passwords among sites. They use the same password for email, banking and social networking. Once that’s compromised, they’ve really got you,” Levin said.

Levin advises never clicking on an unsolicited email that appears to be from the Internal Revenue Service or a major company. Instead, access the website directly by typing in the address.

You can also help protect yourself by inspecting your credit report. The law requires the major nationwide credit-reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, to give you a free copy of your credit report every 12 months if you ask for it. Go to or call 1-877-322-8228 to order your free credit report.

We’ll protect if you pay

Be wary of companies that want to charge you to protect your identity. Often, they charge to “ lock,” “freeze” or “flag” your credit reports. Under the law, initial fraud alerts and renewals are available for no charge if you have reason to believe you have been, or are about to be, a victim of identity theft, the FTC advises.

The alerts require creditors to verify your identity before they issue new credit accounts in your name, but they do nothing to prevent misuse of your existing accounts, the FTC says.

To report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission, call 1-877-438-4338.

By  Susan Salisbury

COX NEWSPAPERS Sunday April 15, 2012 9:47 AM

***Many of the great insurance companies that we represent include identity theft coverage in the homeowners policy.  Please call 513-985-3600 to discuss further***

Posted on: April 16th, 2012 at 8:55pm by bwittenbaum. Filed under: Insurance Coverage News

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