Identity theft prompts insurers to offer policies

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Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, according to the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

And Craig isn't immune to the trend.

The crime is enough of a problem that more and more insurance companies, including some in Craig, offer identity theft coverage as an add-on to a person's homeowner's insurance policy.

"It's kind of an up-and-coming thing because there's so much identity theft," Farm Bureau insurance agent Sue Lyster said.

• Be cautious about giving personal or financial information to anyone.

• Never provide personal identifying or financial information over the telephone when you did not initiate the call.

• Never carry your social security card in your purse or wallet.

• Never have your social security number printed on your checks, drivers license or other financial documents.

• Never respond to e-mail or "pop-up" messages on your computer claiming some problem with a credit card, Internet or other account.

• Purchase a simple "cross-cut" shredder (the kind that creates confetti, not the long strips) and get in the habit of shredding all personal or financial documents you intend to discard.

• Control access to your credit history. Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved lines of credit by participating in the credit bureaus' "Opt-Out" program. Call 1-888-567-8688 to enroll.

• Be careful with your mail. If you don't have a secure, locked mailbox, mail your bills from a curbside public mailbox or directly at your local post office.

-- Colorado Attorney General's Office

Because identity theft is categorized with other thefts and fraud, solid statistics about the problem here aren't available. But local police officers have handled several cases of identity theft, said Craig Police Department Sgt. Bill Leonard.

"It is an issue here," he said.

The department has dealt with cases of stolen credit cards, forged checks and unauthorized access to bank accounts -- all forms of identity theft.

Colorado ranks fifth in identity theft victims per 100,000 people, according to the Federal Trade Commission

Farm Bureau doesn't offer coverage for identity theft, but other insurers in Craig do.

For $45 a year, a person can get as much as $25,000 to cover the high cost associated with untangling the mess that comes with identity theft, said LaVan White, agent with Moffat Insurance Agency.

The policy doesn't cover actual financial losses -- most credit card companies and banks do that, White said.

But it does cover the cost to hire an attorney to help identity theft victims deal with credit bureaus. And it helps offset loss of income as they work to repair their credit.

Victims of identity theft spend about 175 hours and $1,000 of their own money trying to amend credit reports, deal with their creditors and work with law enforcement.

White said a few people have already asked for the policy, but none have made claims.

"A lot of people have had people try to access their accounts," White said. "That concerned them enough to ask about a policy."

White said customers must ask for the policy -- it's not automatically included in a homeowner's policy.

Leonard recalls a case where a person lost $10,000 because of identity theft.

"We've probably had cases that were bigger, but that's the one that comes to mind," he said.

It took one victim of identity theft six years to fix her credit rating, Leonard said.

"It's a major deal," he said.

In another case, a Craig couple thought they were purchasing a vacation over the telephone. There was no vacation. The solicitor used their credit card information.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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