Frequently Asked Questions: Identity Theft

How Identity Theft Works

What is identity theft?

People use the term identity theft loosely. True identity theft occurs when a thief uses your personal information, such as your Social Security number, home address, checking account number, etc., to commit fraud and open new accounts. Fraudulent charges on a credit or ATM card may mean that someone has stolen your credit card account number to make purchases that you did not approve, but it may not indicate that your identity was stolen.

Identity theft occurs when a thief steals your personal information to:

  • Open new credit card accounts
  • Take out loans for new cars or homes
  • Access bank accounts and withdraw funds
  • Rent homes
  • Obtain medical treatment and charge it in your name
  • Use your good name as an alias when committing a crime

These activities can result in a significant financial and emotional cost.

How do thieves steal my personal information?

Thieves steal your personal information by:

  • Stealing wallets, purses and mail that contain private information about you and your family.
  • Completing a "change of address form" to divert mail from your home to another location.
  • Rummaging through trash looking for personal information.
  • Fraudulently obtaining personal information by posing as an employer, landlord, bank, credit card company or telemarketer.
  • Intercepting cell phone calls when you are making a purchase.

Because thieves use a victim's personal information to create a fictitious person at a different address or commit fraud or crimes, victims are usually unaware of the problem for a period of time. That gives thieves the opportunity to commit multiple fraudulent acts or crimes without a victim's knowledge.

What is the difference between credit card fraud and identity theft?

Fraudulent charges on a credit or ATM card may mean that someone has stolen your credit card account number to make purchases that you did not approve, but it doesn't necessarily mean that thieves have stolen your identity. Some credit institutions limit a consumer's responsibility for reimbursement when fraud occurs. ERIE's Identity Recovery Coverage also provides reimbursement for fraud.

Identity theft occurs when a thief uses your personal information to open new credit accounts, purchase vehicles, or apply for loans, for example.
Are there laws against identity theft?

Yes. In October 1998, the United States Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 (Identity Theft Act) to address identity fraud. Even with this law, identity theft continues to exist, and the number of Americans impacted escalates each year.

Do the police find the majority of identity thieves?

No. Most victims don't know how a thief obtained their personal information, making it hard to apprehend the thief. For a criminal, identity theft is a low-risk, high-reward endeavor. Due to a number of factors, identity theft is one of the least convicted crimes in America.

ERIE's Identity Theft Recovery and Fraud Reimbursement Coverage

What should I do if someone has stolen my identity or made fraudulent purchases in my name?

If someone steals your personal information, it's important to take immediate action. If you have ERIE's Identity Recovery Coverage, contact our hotline at 1-866-ERIENOW (374-3669) to begin the recovery process. We'll put you in touch with our case management services to get you on the road to recovery and walk you through the recovery process, which includes:

  • Contacting the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. This alert requests that creditors contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts.
  • Ordering copies of your credit report from all three of the major credit bureaus to review recent activity.
  • Closing accounts that you believe were tampered with or opened fraudulently.
  • Writing letters on your behalf to the Social Security Administration or other government entities.
  • Providing legal referrals for assistance with court appearances or other legal situations.
  • Keeping detailed records of the steps taken and remaining to restore your identity.
Will my personal information be safe with ERIE case managers?

Yes. Our case managers go through an extensive interview process, which includes a county, state, and national criminal check, fingerprint analysis, and credit report check. Additionally, all case managers receive thorough training before working with our Policyholders. Each case manager is a state licensed investigator and must complete continuing education requirements each year. Rest assured, our case managers will treat your personal information with the utmost security.

Will I need a lawyer if my identity is stolen?

Maybe. With ERIE's Identity Recovery Coverage, we'll walk you through the recovery process and assist you in finding legal representation in the event that you must attend court hearings or prepare legal documents. ERIE's coverage also reimburses you for certain expenses associated with obtaining legal representation.

Are my children covered with ERIE's Identity Recovery Coverage?

Yes. Identity theft is a crime that impacts thousands of minors each year. ERIE's Identity Recovery Coverage will protect any insured as defined by ERIE's homeowner policy including named insureds, any resident relative, ward or any persons in the care of the named insured.

Is the money fraudulently lost, for example $500 charged to my credit card, reimbursed with ERIE's Identity Recovery Coverage?

Yes. Consumers can typically recover this money from the affected financial institutions and most banks and creditors limit a consumers' exposure to $50. However, if your financial institution does not limit your financial responsibility when fraud occurs, you can use ERIE's Identity Recovery Coverage for fraud reimbursement.

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