Do you shred? You sure should, according to PEMCO Insurance. It's one of the simplest ways to protect yourself against a rising tsunami of criminal activity in identity fraud that touches more than a quarter of a million victims each year in Washington state.
The statistics are staggering and growing worse by the year. Identity fraud crimes account for losses more than triple that of burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft combined, and suck well over $1 billion a year from our state's economy.
To help policyholders protect their identities, PEMCO has introduced a service at no additional cost called PEMCO ID Smart(TM). Teaming with Identity Theft 911(R), the nation's leader in identity management and fraud education, PEMCO's service, which began October 1, offers the following:
-- ID Resolution. Whether you've lost a wallet or suffered full-blown identity theft, PEMCO ID Smart identity fraud services provides peace of mind. You get full access to a fraud specialist from Identity Theft 911 who will resolve the problem and guide you step-by-step in cleaning up the mess.
-- Disaster Resolution. If you lose critical documents in an earthquake, flood, home fire or other disaster, PEMCO ID Smart provides expert help to quickly recapture the critical documentation needed to rebuild your life, and to help defend against identity theft and related fraud.
-- Travel Resolution. This helps PEMCO customers in replacing their identification, credit cards, checks or other important personal and financial documents that are misplaced, lost or stolen while traveling.
Ironically, one of the best defenses against getting your identity ripped off is a relatively inexpensive document shredder, available at any office supply store.
According to Federal Trade Commission statistics, identity fraud is exploding, and Washington is one of the worst-hit states. Identity fraud in Washington nearly doubled between 2002 and 2005, with a direct economic cost of more than $1.75 billion. Statewide identity fraud losses are 3.3 times greater than the combined losses from burglary, larceny and auto theft.
"We strongly encourage people to take the obvious steps to protect themselves, like buying and using a home shredder," Osterberg said. "But when ID theft does happen, our policyholders can use the PEMCO ID Smart service to reduce their losses and prevent enormous headaches."
How do your shredding habits compare? Go to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll: http://survey.pemco.com/