Shred, you said? Protecting your identity may depend on it
PEMCO to hold shred party and introduces ID Smart™ to fight identity fraud
SEATTLE – 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™. Teaming with Identity Theft 911®, 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 provide 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. Don't have a shredder? Not to worry – PEMCO will provide one to Puget Sound residents at a Shred Party, to be held at the PEMCO headquarters parking lot on Saturday, October 13, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bring up to three grocery bags full of documents, and an industrial-size shredder will eat them up. There also will be coffee and snacks, and an identity fraud expert from the state Attorney General's office will be on hand to take questions.
"Shredding sensitive but unneeded financial documents is one of the simplest ways for people to protect themselves," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. "If they don't shred, they leave themselves at enormous risk. People fear burglary, but they are far more likely to be hit by ID theft." If people don't want to buy a shredder, he said, they need to come to the Shred Party, have a snack and shred away.
PEMCO also knows that shredding, while important, simply isn't enough. The 2007 PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll uncovered some chilling statistics:
- Despite an average loss of nearly $1,000 per household, nearly one in six Washington households do not bother to shred any sensitive documents
- Households with higher income are likelier to shred – but, conversely, are more at risk for identity theft
- Older households (adults over 35) are more likely to shred than those under age 35
Shredders are available at any office supply store, Osterberg said, often for under $100. But for those who don't want to invest in a shredder, he urges them to come to the Shred Party. Anyone can sign up to become eligible to win a home shredder that PEMCO will give away on Saturday.
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 that 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."
On the Web:
How do your shredding habits compare? Go to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll:
The Federal Trade Commission ID Theft website:
About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned the statewide phone survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about driving, cell phone use, and other safety issues. The poll was conducted by FBK Research of Seattle. The sample size was 600 respondents.
About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.