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Is Your Personal Information Secure with Your Insurance Agent?

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Identity Theft. It's in the news and on the tongues of most Oregonians. You see and hear ads all over the media offering you identity theft prevention, protection and clean up services. How do you lose your personal information and what can you do to protect it? What are the potential points of personal data loss? This article will address these and other issues regarding the security of your personal data.

First, let us be clear. Your name and reputation are your most valuable asset. Something as simple as having a name similar to another known criminal can make life difficult. Your name can open doors, or close them. The reputation that you have built all your life associated with the name you were given or you chose for yourself can help you get jobs, obtain credit, land contracts and make friends. You name is the most important thing about you when interacting with society. If your name and reputation are tarnished, you can do one of three things: Change your name, move and start over or start doing something today to change your reputation. All of these are difficult. Sometimes your name and reputation are blemished through no fault of your own. You lose your identity to a criminal.

Your purse or wallet can get stolen. The least that can happen is the thief can take your cash and discard the rest. The worst is he can use your name, date of birth, social security number and drivers license number to open the door to just about anything. A police officer can make an arrest and the detainee can use your name and drivers license number. Another can take out a credit card in your name and charge it up to the limit. Cell phone accounts, utilities, gas cards, and many other credit based consumer goods and services can be opened in your name, locally or in another state, without you even knowing it. Your bank account could be drained. A crime could be committed in your name and you might not even know it until law enforcement shows up at your home or work. Keep an eye on your wallet or purse.

Giving out your social security or credit card over the phone or the Internet is another point of personal data loss. Make sure you know who you are giving your information to and for what purpose. Most companies and banks have a website where you, the consumer, can interact by paying your bill online or update your account. Usually, the company will not solicit your information. You must seek them out and provide the information at their secure site. Be sure that when ever you have to hit a submit button, that the page is under a secure encryption certified site. Look for the little "lock" symbol at the end of the URL bar. That helps to ensure that the data you are sending to the company is not going to get picked off by someone along the way. Also, you should take care that the site you are visiting is the official site for that company.

Is your insurance company or agency a possible point of personal data theft? Yes! Insurance companies are no exception. Companies and agencies require your personal information to properly rate your policy. Most auto insurance companies require your name, date-of-birth and address to identify you in order to check your driving and credit records. This information is typed into data entry fields located on the screen of the customer service representative or agent. The data is then stored on the local or network drive of the insurance agency or company. Your personal information is then transmitted through the Internet to the insurance company for final rating. It is at this point the data can be lost or stolen. Is the connection your agent is using secure?

How can you make sure your most vulnerable data remains secure? Don't give out your social security number. Most insurers can give you an accurate quote and obtain the consumer reports they need to properly rate your policy without the social security number. Most will say that it is "helpful" to give it making it easier for them to identify you. But it is not necessary! If the company that you are getting a quote from says you must give them your social security number or they can't quote you, move on! Yes, you must cooperate with your agent on the rest of the information, like date-of-birth, driver's license number, address and full name. But that should be it.Ask questions!

Ask if the agent backs up the agency database on a regular basis. Ask if the data is kept on computer or in paper files or both. Ask if the computer system is password protected and data encrypted. If paper files are kept, are they under lock and key. Ask what paper is shredded and how often that might contain your personal information. Insurance agents and other professionals have been in the news lately involving the discarding of paper files directly into an unsecured garbage can right outside the agency. Insurance agents are custodians of your personal information. Do your homework on an agent or agency before giving out your personal information. Ask! Ask! Ask!

InsureSource Agencies is dedicated to limiting the exposure it has to theft of your personal information. Paper files are scanned then shredded. Scanned documents and text databases are placed in a agency management system that is password protected and encrypted. The data base and image base are backed up daily, on and off site. When you make a payment over the phone, the credit card or electronic check information is not kept on file. It is entered at an encrypted site provided by your insurance company. Once the transaction clears your credit card or electronic check numbers are wiped from the system unless you elect to have them draft from the same account each payment period or authorize them to keep the data on file. Many customers get frustrated because they have to give the agent the credit or debit card number out each month when they call. This is for your protection!

Let us know if you have any questions about how to more securely transact business with your company or agent. We're happy to help.

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