By Jeff Zander, CEO of Zander Insurance
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen a significant increase in the purchase of term life and health insurance policies due to the devastating impacts of COVID. Though most people understand why these coverages have been crucial during the current health crisis, many have not recognized how to avoid identity theft and the quickly growing need for cyber protection. In 2020, the FTC received 4.8 million identity (ID) theft and fraud complaints, an increase of 45 percent in 2019. When we think about ID theft, a data breach is often the first thing that comes to mind. A data breach occurs when information is stolen from a system without the knowledge or authorization of the system’s owner, within large corporations and small businesses alike. Last year, however, we saw cyber thieves getting more creative and aggressive during the pandemic.
Nearly one-third of the FTC complaints filed last year were for scams involving government benefits, including federal stimulus payments and unemployment claims. Over the last year, our company’s caseload quadrupled due to ID theft claims surrounding unemployment fraud and SBA loans. We saw scammers creating fake business names similar to a legitimate business but using the EIN/tax ID number of the member’s business to get a loan. Cases like these are incredibly frustrating for the victimized company and can be a nightmare to resolve when multiple government entities are involved.
Another common way to be a victim of ID theft is through phishing scams. Phishing is where an attacker sends a fraudulent message designed to trick a human into revealing sensitive information. I’ve seen people in the process of closing on a house receive an email from a realtor whose email address was slightly off, but they were asking the sellers to wire money before closing. We’ve also seen a considerable increase in ransomware attacks, a type of malware that threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access unless a ransom is paid. Victims typically open themselves up to this type of cyber-extortion by clicking a link in a phishing email or downloading an email attachment.
Last year, Tennesseans reported losses of $40.6 million due to fraud and identity theft—at this rate, we aren’t expecting that number to decrease for 2023. Fortunately, ID theft protection is an affordable way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim and give you the peace of mind that a team of advocates is on your side. There are also some key things that you can implement to ensure you’re as protected as possible.
• Install antivirus software to prevent or remove malware from your computer. Antivirus software will aid in protecting your identity from cybercriminals.
• Additionally, consider using a VPN (virtual private network) to ensure safety on public Wi-Fi networks and even protect your data privacy from your internet service provider.
• Create strong and unique passwords for your computers, tablets, iPads and smartphones.
• Always pay close attention to the spelling of email addresses and don’t open their attachments. When in doubt, call the company claiming to need information from you to verify
it’s legitimate before you respond.
• Consider these helpful resources like adding a fraud alert to your credit report, implementing a credit freeze and signing up for the Do Not Call registry.
• Purchase an ID theft protection plan that protects the entire family (children are equally at risk). The plan should continually monitor your personal and financial information, alert you of any suspicious activity, provide a recovery team to help you restore your identity to pre-theft status if you become a victim and offer reimbursement of stolen funds and expenses if you become a victim.
If you’re a business owner, there are also programs available to safeguard your company’s most valuable assets.
Business ID theft protection
The ID theft protection will track the trade and selling of business-related information through surveillance and monitoring services, including bank account numbers, employee email addresses, credit card numbers, and business URLs to alert you when your information is at risk. If a business becomes a victim, the protection plan will provide unlimited recovery services to remedy the problem and restore the company to pre-theft status.
Data breaches and ID theft events are never 100 percent preventable. In the event of a data breach, this type of program will assist in limiting the damage, delivering legally mandated notifications to your affected customers, and taking proactive resolution measures to help reduce the negative impact. With ransomware becoming a fast-growing threat, especially to small and mid-size organizations, it is crucial to have a protection plan in place if your business becomes a target. The coverage will also protect against costly lawsuits.
Group ID theft protection plans not only provide protection if your employee’s data is hacked but also offers the ability to expand an Employee Benefit plan with a service that is timely to your Team’s needs and helps reduce the stress and distraction caused if they do become a victim from whatever type of attack occurs. The Employee Benefit Protection Plans offered are very similar to individual protections noted above but often at a significant discount if purchased as a group.
Whether you’re concerned about yourself, your business, or your employees, ID theft and cybersecurity events are on the rise, and you should consider a protection plan that features benefits designed to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
Jeff Zander has more than 40+ years of experience working in the insurance industry and specializing in all areas of Personal, Business and Employee Benefit programs. Nashville-based Zander Insurance Group was founded nearly 100 years ago by his great grandfather Herman Zander, and Jeff is CEO of this fourth-generation, family-and-employee-owned business.
To learn more, visit https://www.zanderins.com/identity-theft-protection