The number of identity theft and fraud victims continues to climb each year. Even the most conscientious consumer – combined with bank security measures and safe online browsing habits– cannot completely prevent identity theft. There were over 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports received by the Federal Trade Commission in 2020, which is up 45% from 20191.
For added assurance and peace of mind, you may be considering identity theft insurance or other identity protection services. It is important to understand the options that are commonly included and what they may cover to help you decided if this insurance is right for you.
What is identity theft and cybercrime?
Identity theft is the act of stealing any combination of personally identifiable information, such as an address, birthdate, or Social Security number, usually with the intention of assuming someone else’s identity or reselling the stolen data for financial benefit. Identity theft can happen as a result of being a victim of a cybercrime.
Cybercrime is a criminal activity that either targets or uses a computer, a computer network, or a networked device. Most, but not all cybercrime is committed by cybercriminals or hackers who want to make money - Cybercrime may be carried out by individuals or organizations. Some cybercriminals may be organized, use advanced techniques and are highly technically skilled. Others may be novice hackers
Identity theft coverage
For comprehensive protection against identity theft, you may opt to purchase an insurance policy, which often includes credit alerts and account monitoring among other features listed below2. Most policies offer $10,000 to $15,000 in coverage and have deductibles around $100 to $500. While these policies will cover costs incurred while repairing your identity and credit (such as lost wages, attorney fees and notary and certified mailing costs), they may not, however, reimburse you for any loss of assets related to the identity theft incident itself.3
Some companies offer identity theft insurance policies up to $1 million. You’ll want to learn exactly what this covers, though. Sometimes the $1 million is a “service guarantee” and the actual insurance amount that they will pay is still around $10,000 to $25,000. Also, some policies won’t pay your expenses if your loss is already covered by federal consumer protections, property insurance or a merchant4 In addition, it’s worth noting that costs for identity theft are often minimal, so you’ll want to weigh that against the premium.
Common coverage options
Below is a list of common coverage options typically associated with Identity theft insurance:
- Lost wallet protection. Few situations are more unnerving and inconvenient than losing your wallet. The plethora of cards to cancel and documents to replace can be overwhelming – if you can even remember all that you had. With lost wallet protection, your insurance provider may do most of the legwork for you: canceling credit and debit cards, requesting replacements and helping you obtain a new driver’s license and medical insurance cards.
When you enroll, you’ll register as many cards as you like, so your information is already on file should you need to call in a lost or stolen wallet. With some plans, you can get help in replacing passports, keys, and mobile devices as well. Others may offer a cash advance if certain conditions are met, such as being a given distance away from home.
- Alert system. Numerous companies use alert systems to notify you via text, phone, or email that your information has been compromised. Often these alerts will outline step-by-step how to resolve the suspected theft in tandem with their efforts. Before selecting a membership plan for these services, you’ll want to learn what alerts are offered and any steps you must take to activate them, such as registering all your card information online.
- Address change notification. Moving to a new home, apartment, or condo – either permanently or temporarily – is really the only time you need to update your address with the U.S. Postal Service. Identity thieves, though, may have a different agenda in mind. By submitting address change requests, criminals can attempt to redirect your mail and steal your bank statements, medical bills, and other important documents. With address change verification, you’ll be alerted of any address changes submitted on your behalf without your authorization.
- Black market website surveillance. If your personal identity is stolen, the thievery doesn’t necessarily stop right there: criminals can then sell your information on underground websites to other thieves. Black market website surveillance inspects thousands of websites, chat rooms and other databases for illicit use of your personal information. If bought, sold, traded or otherwise compromised, you’ll receive an alert outlining what you need to do next, including changing passwords, freezing your bank accounts and closely monitoring your financial information.
- Credit monitoring. You are able to check your credit score with the free report available from major credit reporting agencies once a year. If you would like to monitor your credit more regularly, another option is to register online at a handful of websites – like Credit Karma - to track your credit score for free. Often you can sign up to receive alerts via email, or you can log in at any time to see your updated score. Credit monitoring allows you to recognize any unexpected dips in your credit score, which could indicate that your financial information has fallen into the wrong hands. More advanced credit monitoring – such as a compilation of credit reports from three major credit bureaus – is available at an additional cost.
- Credit card, checking and savings activity alerts. Some identity theft protection companies offer notifications for cash withdrawals, balance transfers and large purchases, all in one place – but for a price. You may just as easily be able to monitor your own accounts for free by signing up for alerts or mobile banking directly through your bank.
- Public record monitoring. With some memberships, you can receive quarterly reports related to your publicly available information. These quarterly updates will inform you of any changes to your information or assure you that it’s consistent.
Is identity theft insurance right for me?
For those who don’t mind closely monitoring their accounts and credit scores, and consider the hassle of fraud and/or identity theft only minimal, some protection services may seem unnecessary. But for others, particularly those who have experienced identity theft previously, the added expense of insurance or any number of services may be well worth the price.
Nationwide’s identity theft protection services
Nationwide’s Identity theft protection offers the most comprehensive coverage by giving you peace of mind by safeguarding and monitoring your personal data.
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