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  • Last modified 3684 days ago (Oct. 15, 2008)

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Be shrewd with identity issues

National Crime Prevention Council has designated October as National Crime Prevention Month.

Taking personal responsibility for one’s safety is a major part of the promotion.

According to Sandy Praeger, Kansas Commissioner of Insurance, being safe not only includes physical safety but also financial safety. Financial safety includes protecting oneself from consumer fraud such as identity theft and abusive sales practices concerning sales of life insurance and annuities.

Being shrewd in dealings regarding personal identity or insurance certainly is not rude. It’s just the right thing to do, Praeger said.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a total of 8.3 million incidents of identity theft occurred in the U.S. in 2006, the latest reporting year. Those incidents cost consumers billions of dollars.

In Kansas, the FTC said more than 1,600 citizens were victims of identity theft during the same year.

Identity thieves use many methods to steal personal information. There’s Dumpster diving when thieves go through a person’s trash looking for bills or other items with personal information. There’s phishing when thieves pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send e-mails to obtain information. There’s “old-fashioned” stealing of mail, purses, or personal records.

All of those methods can lead to the destruction of credit and good name unless a person is shrewd enough to safeguard information.

  • Carry only necessary information. Do not carry a Social Security card.
  • Treat credit cards, insurance cards, and checks as if they were cash.
  • Do not carry personal identification numbers (PINS). Memorize them.
  • Make photocopies of financial information and credit cards, then place them in a secure place in case the cards are stolen.
  • Don’t give out information unless initiated.
  • Think twice, especially if a person doesn’t understand why certain information is needed by a solicitor. Don’t think it is rude to ask why it is needed. Legitimate solicitors will understand.
  • Use a shredder to destroy unneeded documents and mail solicitations.
  • Pick up incoming mail promptly and put outgoing mail in U.S. Postal Service mail drops.
  • Remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) recently adopted a model regulation to protect insurance consumers, particularly older citizens, from unscrupulous and abusive sales practices and fraud.

Individuals who sell life insurance or annuities often market them to seniors by touting their credentials as a “retirement planner,” “senior adviser,” or “senior consultant.”

The NAIC model regulation prohibits the use of such senior-specific certifications with any misrepresentation of the level of the agents’ expertise subject to penalties under state law.

Kansans are urged to follow these tips:

  • Questions the credentials of “experts.”
  • Beware of “free lunch” investment seminars.
  • Ask yourself: Does this product make sense to me and for me?
  • Never make a final decision at a seminar.
  • Report suspected scams.

Contact the Kansas Insurance Department Consumer Assistance Hot line for more information at (800) 432-2484.

Last modified Oct. 15, 2008

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