Should I Buy ID Theft Insurance?
The recent data breach at credit monitoring agency Equifax has left many people wondering if they need Identity Theft Insurance. 143 million personal records and 209,000 credit card numbers were accessed.
Most adults in the US and a large number in Canada were affected. The main effects of the breach are:
- Someone could try to borrow money using a victim’s name.
- If you’re one of the credit card victims, someone could use your card number to buy stuff.
There are lots of things you can do to reduce the risk of being hit, such as putting a fraud alert of freezing your credit records, using a monitoring service to regularly check your credit record and taking action yourself to check your bank and credit card balances as frequently as possible.
(Note that monitoring credit records does not include checking for illegal use of your credit card unless specifically stated by the monitoring service).
You can get more information and tips about protecting yourself here.
But what about insurance? Here are the key things you need to know.
- Your homeowner’s insurance policy may include a small amount of coverage for this risk.
- Identity theft insurance does not, as a general rule, cover you against the direct financial losses if someone misuses your credit card or takes out a loan in your name. These costs are usually borne by the bank or card company.
- The real purpose of ID theft insurance is to help meet the cost of straightening out all of the problems that flow from falling victim, such as restoring victims’ identities and repairing credit reports, covering lost wages and paying attorney’s fees.
- ID theft coverage can be issued either as a standalone policy or as an endorsement to your homeowner’s insurance. It usually costs around $40 to $60 and covers expenses of up to $25,000.
Identity theft insurance won’t stop thieves, but if you fall victim it could ease the pain of putting things right. If you’re thinking about getting this type of insurance, check your homeowner’s policy first, then speak to us or your insurance agent/broker.
Watch Out For Equifax Scams
One of the biggest headaches following the Equifax data breach (see article, left) is the risk of getting scammed by crooks pretending to be from the credit monitoring agency.
Since the breach was announced a couple of months back, scammers, who actually have nothing to do with the theft, have been using it as a way to steal confidential financial information.
They’re randomly phoning or emailing people claiming to be from Equifax customer service. They tell them that they’re entitled to free credit monitoring from Equifax (which, as a matter of fact, is true for victims). Then they ask the person to “confirm” their identity by disclosing information like bank and credit card account numbers. They use this information to quickly drain victims’ bank accounts or max out their credit cards.
There’s a simple way to tell this is a scam. Equifax isn’t phoning victims, so if you get a call, it is a scam and you should hang up.
In fact, you should never share financial information to anyone making an incoming call (in other words, one you don’t make yourself), such as someone claiming to be from your bank or card company. It’s always a scam. And don’t believe your caller ID. It’s easily faked.
Know Your Space Heater Safety Rules
With cooler weather on the way — and already here for some of us — you may be thinking of hauling that space heater out of its summer storage spot to add some warmth and comfort to your home.
But hold it right there. Did you know that these heating devices are a potential threat to your home safety unless you treat them with the respect they deserve?
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) more than 65,000 home fires in North America are caused each year by accidents and faults involving space heaters
“Portable electric space heaters can be a convenient source of supplemental heat for your home in cold weather. Unfortunately, they can pose significant fire and electric shock hazards if not used properly,” the organization warns.
“Fire and electrical hazards can be caused by space heaters without adequate safety features, space heaters placed near combustibles, or space heaters that are improperly plugged in.”
But just following a few basic, commonsense rules can eliminate most of the risks and allow the heater to safely do the job it was supposed to.
Here’s the countdown, courtesy of ESFI:
- Make sure your space heater has a label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
- Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully.
- Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
- Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep, and don’t let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
- Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, dry clothing or thaw pipes.
- Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas and test them once a month.
- Proper placement of space heaters is critical. Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
- Locate space heaters away from high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.
- Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Don’t plug other devices into the same outlet as the heater.
- Place heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place them on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
- Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.
Thanks to all of our clients who graciously referred their friends and associates to our agency! We build our agency on your positive comments!