ID Theft Insurance Benefits
RECOVERING FROM identity theft is emotionally taxing and surprisingly time-consuming; it’s no wonder that so many people fear victimization.
For several years, insurers have offered products to help victims recover from ID theft losses. More recently, companies have started offering this insurance to their employees as a benefit. Company executives call the policies a relatively inexpensive way to give employees something they really value.
“It’s one benefit that our employees really appreciate,” says Greg Roderick, President and CEO of Frontier Management, a Durham, Oregon-based assisted-living company that began buying this type of coverage from Beaverton, Oregon-based Identity Safeguards in early 2006.
Other companies purchasing the benefit, which costs between $12 and $14 per employee per month, have ranged from banks to airlines to clothing stores.
Brentwood, Tennessee-based Secure Identity Systems (SIS), one company that offers these policies, has experienced “double-digit” growth each month since it first started offering its ID theft insurance product as a benefit in early 2007.
Insurance as a benefit is typically much less expensive for individuals than when they purchase it on their own because the deductible is typically much lower. “It could make [the insurance] a lot more cost-effective for an individual,” says Joanna Crane, an attorney and the identity theft program manager at the Federal Trade Commission.
Companies selecting a provider should look carefully at what different products offer, says Jay Foley, executive director of the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center. For example, is there full service help with resolution of problems?
SIS’s product consists of four main components, says CEO Bryan Ansley. The first is “total identity monitoring,” because, Ansley points out, while many people consider ID theft to be mainly credit-related, it is often broader. “It could be something like an illegal alien stealing your identity in order to work,” he says.
SIS examines more than 1,000 databases that include information on credit, motor vehicle records, Social Security numbers, utilities, and medical records.
The next part is something Ansley calls “fully managed recovery,” which he describes as minimizing the victims’ productivity loss by saving them from having to spend time resolving the problems arising from identity theft, which can take anywhere from 80 to 600 hours, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Under SIS, victims can call an advocate who can then make calls on their behalf.
The third component is insurance. SIS covers up to $20,000 in losses, including lost wages, stolen funds, and travel expenses, that could result if one had to fly to another city to prove one’s identity.
The fourth component is education. Company staff members can give presentations to employees to help them understand how to minimize ID theft risks.
The coverage that Roderick has with Identity Safeguards is similar. About 180 company managers are enrolled at a cost of about $12 per person per month; ID theft-related costs are insured to about
When employees fear they have been victimized, they call the insurance company. A representative asks questions about the victim’s financial accounts to determine whether there is evidence of ID theft. “It takes about 20 minutes and then the employees go right back to work,” says Roderick.
Roderick has had firsthand experience in how the service works. About two years ago, he says, shortly after his Identity Safeguard coverage began, police officers came to his house and asked him to prove his identity. Someone had obtained some of his personal information and created a fake ID, and was now writing bad checks.
Among other steps, Identity Safeguard called Roderick’s bank and requested that it ask additional security questions during any in-person transactions. “Questions such as ‘What city were you born in?’ and ‘What was your dog’s first name?’” says Roderick. “Any kind of barrier you can put up to stop these ID thieves the better.” Identity Safeguards also reimbursed him for the cost he incurred from the bad checks.
Roderick says that having a personal contact really sets the insurance apart from services such as credit monitoring. With the latter—currently the most common way consumers guard against ID theft—victims typically receive a checklist of steps to take on their own.
For Roderick, the insurance is a “huge benefit…. If we were to help just one of our employees over a five-year period, it would have been worth getting.”