Computer crimes make headlines but thieves prefer low-tech, old-fashioned theft: Travelers

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The #1 way criminals steal your identity

HARTFORD, Conn. – Nov. 2, 2009 – Identity fraud increased substantially in 2008, reversing a four-year trend of decreasing incidents. Researchers say identity fraud increased by 22 percent last year and they anticipate another 22 percent jump in 2009, attributing the increases to crimes of opportunity driven by the economic downturn1. What�s more, despite recent headlines and growing fears about online security and data breaches, old-fashioned theft is the most popular way thieves steal identities and perpetrate identity fraud.

According to 2008 claim data compiled by Travelers (NYSE: TRV), burglary and theft of wallets, purses and personal computers provide thieves the best opportunity to gain access to personal information. In instances where the victim knew their identity had been stolen, it was the result of personal property being stolen nearly 78 percent of the time. Travelers identifies the following as the top known causes of identity fraud:

  • 78% – burglary and theft of wallet/purse/personal identification/computer
  • 14% – online or data breach
  • 5% – change of address/postal fraud
  • 3% – lost credit card and other miscellaneous causes

What do thieves do with the information once they have it? More than 75 percent of the time, criminals use the information to open new credit card accounts or use the existing credit cards to make charges. Twenty percent of identity thieves will withdraw money from existing checking, savings and online accounts and 16 percent open utility accounts in the victim�s name.

�Our data indicates that identity fraud can happen to anyone at any time. Thieves don�t discriminate. They prefer crimes of opportunity,� said Joe Reynolds, Identity Fraud Product Manager, Travelers. �So, it really becomes a matter of being vigilant and prepared in the event identity fraud happens to you.�

Reynolds recommends taking a proactive approach to protecting your identity, for example, guarding social security numbers and financial information and shredding documents like receipts, credit/insurance applications and bank statements. Reynolds adds that Identity Fraud Expense Coverage with high-quality resolution services offers another important layer of protection. �Restoring an identity is time consuming, costly and requires expertise,� said Reynolds. �Travelers offers coverage that reduces victim�s burden by doing the work required to resolve a stolen identity.�

Travelers was the first insurer to offer insurance protection to identity fraud victims. Coverage includes reimbursement for the costs associated with identity restoration as well as providing the services required to restore an identity.

�Our dedicated identity fraud team assists victims when they need it most and helps make sure all the required phone calls are made, the letters are written and further preventative measures are put into place. Travelers will take the necessary steps to get our customers� identities back into safe and secure standing,� said Reynolds.

Of all the calls Travelers receives, not all are actual identity fraud. Sometimes it�s someone who has simply misplaced or lost their wallet. In those instances, Travelers provides guidance on preventing fraud by advising customers to do things such as cancelling credit cards, changing bank account information and putting free fraud alerts on their credit.

The Identity Fraud Expense Coverage is available as an endorsement on a Travelers homeowners policy for $25 annually and offers protection up to $25,000 with no deductible. Travelers also offers Identity Fraud Expense Coverage to financial institutions and commercial entities as an employee, customer or membership benefit.

About Travelers

The Travelers Companies, Inc. is a leading property casualty insurer selling primarily through independent agents and brokers. Travelers understands that life and business are inherently dynamic and that the best way to serve customers is to deliver insurance in-synch with evolving risks. The company�s diverse business lines offer its global customers a wide range of coverage in the auto, home and business settings. A Fortune 100 company, Travelers has 33,000 employees and generated revenues of approximately $24 billion in 2008. Travelers stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: TRV) and is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. For more information on being in-synch, visit www.travelers.com .