Consumer Protection Week promotes identity theft awareness


LITTLE ROCK — Identity theft affects 2,000 Arkansans every year. Now, insurance companies are offering policies to cover individuals in case of identity theft. Because March 3-9 is Consumer Protection Week, learning ways to guard against identity theft will help keep your accounts safe and your mind at ease.

“Insurance is not a substitute for taking necessary precautions,” said Laura Connerly, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“All consumers need to carefully guard personal information and identification numbers,” she said. “Monitor credit report for signs of identity theft by checking your report every four months. You can get one free annual report from each of the three bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.”

If you decide to get an identity theft insurance policy, understand just what it covers. Some insurance companies may not reimburse you or pay creditors for charges made by the unauthorized user. Some policies cover only costs related to recovery from identity theft, most of which would not be expensive even if you did not have the policy. Recovery actions include filing reports with credit bureaus, police, Attorney General’s office, creditors and others. Much of the recovery process is available free from the creditor, the credit bureau and the Attorney General’s office. In fact, the credit bureaus will put a fraud alert on your report, and creditors usually respond quickly to suspicions of theft by closing accounts and issuing new numbers and cards.

Another step to guard your identity without purchasing insurance is to use your credit card instead of a debit card.

“This is especially important for online purchases,” Connerly said. “Some credit cards come with good provisions for identity theft. The Fair Credit Billing Act limits your liability to $50 if someone uses your credit card without permission, and some companies may even guarantee you don’t have to pay for unauthorized charges.”

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.