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identity theft 101

and how renters insurance can protect you

Identity theft sounds like something only suave film spies need to worry about. But the truth is, few crimes can happen more easily and suddenly. The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself from it, including a reliable renters insurance policy.

What is identity theft?

Basically, identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal info (in the form of your social security number, credit card digits, etc.) without your permission. Common things an ID thief might do in your name are rent an apartment, buy a plane ticket, or start a phone account, but the options are wide open.

Thieves can sometimes continue this crime unbothered for days. This is because victims often have no idea anything is wrong until they get a credit card bill or check their bank accounts.

How do identity thieves get your info?

Identity thieves are not above fishing through your trash, and the digital age has made it that much easier to find and steal personal information.

Here are some of the ways identity thieves seek and find the info they're after:

Dumpster diving

Your discarded documents are perhaps the ultimate in "one person's trash is another's treasure." Thieves will sift through garbage looking to strike it rich off your bills or bank forms.

How to protect yourself: Shred everything from junk mail to personal bills and account statements.

Using spyware or malware

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Thieves send you a link via an email or pop-up. When you click on it, a secret program starts recording your online sessions. Similarly evil smartphone apps work the same way during mobile sessions.

How to protect yourself: Do some homework before downloading or installing programs to your computer or smartphone to make sure they're legit. Choose passwords that are hard to guess (not "password" or "qwerty") and change them often. Make sure you're logged into secure sessions when sharing personal info online — a secure session is marked by an "s" after the "http" in the address bar. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer and smartphone.

Offering phony jobs, phishing, and pretexting

When you apply for a fake job, supposed employers will offer you a position and ask for your social security number for a routine background check, which is the last you'll hear from them.

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Phishing happens when you get an email from someone claiming to be an employee of your bank. He or she often requests your user name and password to "reestablish" your account. Pretexting is a similar scam, only it's done over the phone.

How to protect yourself: Make sure you know exactly whom you're dealing with before sharing personal info. If something sounds fishy or too good to be true, there's a very good chance that it is.

Renters insurance: protection from identity theft

If you rent your home and you're considering (or already have) renters insurance, you may be able to add identity theft protection to your policy if your renters insurance company offers it.

When identity theft happens, renters insurance can help you recover by paying fees, repairing credit reports, and hiring specialized case managers — so you can focus on stepping out of the ID theft shadow and, well, feeling like yourself again.

Check the specifics of your policy to see whether identify theft protection is available. If you're not sure you want to add it to your policy or want more info on how the coverage can help, give us a call at 1-866-439-5633. We're always happy to chat with you (the real you, that is).

Related links

Recovering from identity theft: a guide from the FTC
A step-by-step manual for those who are victimized.

Renters insurance FAQs
Get a better idea of how renters coverage can protect you inside the home and out.

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