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October 2009

ID Theft: One of America's fastest growing crimes

On Guard Against a Growing Crime Trend

Hardly a day passes without a media report about identity theft, which is among America's fastest growing crimes. The Federal Trade Commission estimates more than 27 million people have been victimized by identity theft, at a cost to consumers and corporations exceeding $46 billion.

We frequently hear how identity thieves target financial statements, online commerce transactions and credit card receipts to obtain personal information and use others' identities to steal goods and services.

What we hear about less often is how identity thieves can also illegally obtain insurance policies or make false insurance claims using a stolen identity. Just as you would safeguard your identity when making an online purchase or discarding financial statements, you must also be vigilant to avoid being victimized by identity thieves committing insurance fraud in your name.

Protect Your Good Name: Identity Theft Prevention Tips
You can help protect your identity, financial assets and good credit, and avoid being a victim of insurance fraud by taking these identity theft prevention measures:

  • Shred or tear up personal financial documents before discarding them.

  • Do not print personal identifiers such as your social security number, date of birth or driver's license number on your checks.

  • Use your social security number only when necessary.

  • Ensure a web site is securely protected before revealing any information online (secure web sites display a yellow padlock symbol in the corner of a computer screen).

  • Pay attention to billing cycles as identity thieves may reroute bills to another address to hide criminal activities.

  • Review your monthly credit card and other financial statements to check for unauthorized use.

For additional identity theft prevention tips and other information from the NICB, please click here.

Crossing the Line Into Insurance Fraud
Whether identity thieves rummage through garbage to find discarded receipts or use sophisticated technology to analyze online commerce transactions, their basic objective is to steal identifying information, such as names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, credit card data and driver's license numbers. They then use this personal information to fraudulently obtain cash, credit, goods, services and other property.

Identity theft crosses the line into insurance fraud when thieves use your stolen identity to obtain insurance policies or make false insurance claims. An example is when an identity thief applies for a vehicle insurance policy using your stolen driver's license and social security numbers. Upon receiving the policy coverage, the identity thief then almost immediately has a questionable accident or reports the vehicle was stolen, and submits a false insurance claim in an effort to collect money from the insurer for the supposed loss or damage. Not only has the identity thief committed criminal insurance fraud by obtaining a policy under false pretenses and submitting a false claim, but they've done so with your identity!

Other common insurance fraud scams occur when criminals steal your identity to:

  • Buy and insure vehicles used in staged accident schemes.

  • Stage slip-and-fall accidents in retail stores and submit insurance claims for fake injuries.

  • Obtain homeowner's and rental insurance policies and then submit claims for nonexistent burglaries and/or thefts.

Reprinted with permission by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. To get more information on Fraud and Identity Theft, please visit www.nicb.org.

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