• Identity Theft

    Help May Be Closer Than You Realize

    By Randy Kemnitz
    Insurance Subject Matter Expert
    Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education

    "But he that filches from me my good name / Robs me of that which not enriches him / 
    And makes me poor indeed."

    –Shakespeare, Othello, act iii. Sc. 3 

    This quote opens the 2015 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) discussion about identity theft. No doubt identity theft makes us poor indeed. The impact of identity theft is enormous—almost 17 million U.S. victims in 2013 alone with financial losses of almost $28 billion. Yes, that is billion, not million.

    Identity theft takes many forms:

    • Dumpster diving
    • Stolen wallets
    • Change of address
    • Mail theft
    • Shoulder surfing
    • ATM skimmers/handheld skimmers
    • Overlays
    • Data breaches
    • P2P file sharing
    • Phishing
    • SMSishing
    • Vishing   (Lifelock, 2015)

    With this in mind, the question is what to do.

    Start with your homeowners insurance carrier. Yes, your homeowners insurance. Most homeowner insurers now provide some coverage for identity theft. Often this coverage is automatically included, but in some cases it must be added by endorsement. The limits range up to $1 million with premiums starting around $25 annually. Typically, this coverage provides the following.

    • Identity Restoration Case Management—The insurance carrier will provide a case manager who works with affected agencies and institutions, including credit card companies, credit bureaus, creditors, and businesses, on your behalf to correct any covered identity fraud issues you may experience.
    • Identity Fraud Expense Reimbursement—The insurance carrier will pay for a number of expenses you incur while recovering your identity. These range from the costs of obtaining credit reports to lost wages caused by the identity theft.

    Or, you can do it yourself. If you think you’ve become a victim of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report the situation, whether online, by phone, or by mail. Under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, the FTC is responsible for receiving and processing complaints from people who believe they may be victims of identity theft, providing informational materials to those people, and referring those complaints to appropriate entities, including the major credit reporting agencies and law enforcement agencies.

    You may also want to contact other entities including, but not limited to, the following:

    • Your local office of the Postal Inspection Service if you suspect that an identity thief has submitted a change-of-address form with the Post Office to redirect your mail, or has used the mail to commit frauds involving your identity
    • The Social Security Administration (SSA) if you suspect that your Social Security number is being fraudulently used (call 800.269.0271 to report the fraud)
    • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you suspect the improper use of identification information in connection with tax violations (call 800.829.0433 to report the violations)
    • The fraud units of the three principal credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian (formerly TRW), and TransUnion
    • All creditors with whom your name or identifying data has been fraudulently used. For example, you may need to contact your long-distance telephone company if your long-distance calling card has been stolen or you find fraudulent charges on your bill.
    • All financial institutions where you have accounts that an identity thief has taken over or that have been created in your name but without your knowledge. You may need to cancel those accounts, place stop-payment orders on any outstanding checks that may not have cleared, and change your ATM card, account, and personal identification number (PIN). 
      (Benner, Givens & Mierzwinski, 2015) 

    Remember: “Information is power.” Be sure to know what steps to take, so that power isn’t fueled by your information. 

    Interested in this career? Check out Kaplan University's business resources here.


    Benner, J., Givens, B. & Mierzwinski, E. 2015.  Nowhere to turn: Victims speak out on identity theft - a survey of identity theft victims and recommendations for reform. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Retrieved from https://www.privacyrights.org/ar/idtheft2000.htm#V.%20CALPIRG/Privacy%20Rights%20Clearinghouse%20Identity%20Theft%20Platform 

    Lifelock, Inc. Retrieved from: http://www.lifelock.com/education/understanding-identity-theft/types-identity-theft/

    United States Department of Justice, 2015. What are identity theft and identity fraud? Retrieved from: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html 

    Randy Kemnitz is an Insurance Subject Matter Expert at Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University. Consult your advisor before making investment decisions.   

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