By Heather Garbers  

The Equifax data breach exposed the personal information of 143 million customers and underscored an alarming reality: The more we expand our digital footprint (today we store an average of three or four types of personal information online), the more we run the risk of identity theft. 

Your employees are worried about it, and you should be, too. The financial losses are one concern, and those by themselves are substantial. A record-breaking $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers last year – affecting one in every 16 adults, up from $15.3 billion in 2015 and 13.1 billion in 2014. The time, effort and stress of fixing the repercussions of identity theft take a toll on everyone.  Studies by the Identity Theft Resource Center found that 28.8 percent of victims take time off of work to remediate the situation. One case of identity theft can take from 58 to 165 work hours to resolve, over a time period of as few as six months to longer than five years.

Lost productivity and stress are putting identity theft protection services in the voluntary benefits spotlight, with some studies projecting that nearly 70 percent of employers will offer it in 2018. However, before you add one of the identity theft protection services to your lineup, it helps to learn how they work and what they do. These types of policies are typically not regulated by your state’s department of insurance. There are a lot in the marketplace, and some are better – much better – than others.

Here are some features that may or may not be offered by the programs you’re looking into: 

  • Credit bureau monitoring. This is a very useful way to discover identity breaches sooner, and the more that are monitored, the better. We recommend looking for a plan that monitors all three of the national bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
  • Pre-existing breaches.  You’ll want to verify the company’s policies for covering breaches that occurred prior to the effective date of coverage. And if those breaches will be covered by the plan, or subject to additional cost.
  • An insurance policy tied to the account as a service guarantee. This is offered by the top services and what is covered specifically can vary. Typically you would want an insurance policy that covers: lost wages, reimburses for out of pocket expenses related to the recovery process and professional service fees associated with identity restoration and creditor resolution, and stolen fund reimbursement. 
  • Complete resolution, should an identity hack occur. This entails providing the protection service limited power of authority to act on the subscriber’s behalf to restore a stolen identity. The service will call the banks, credit card companies, wireless provider, etc., to report breaches and manage the process of getting new cards and other such activities.
  • Preventive services. These can vary, but add a tremendous amount of value, so it’s worth checking into them. For example, some services offer dark web monitoring, where ethical hackers track breaches of financial and social identity theft. Identity removal from marketing and public databases is another service and especially important for deceased family members, as their identities are as vulnerable to being stolen after death as before. 

Identity theft protection services typically offer two levels of service for employees – for the employees themselves or for their families as well. Family protection is worth looking into as a child’s identity is also at risk, but may be overlooked, with breaches only discovered when later applying for a credit card or college admission.

While identity theft protection services are available to individuals, it is more expensive than what employers can offer today through a group program.  There are also significantly lower costs if the employer is able to fund the cost of coverage for employees – a solution that provides an ROI to employers in reduced time being taken from the workplace to resolve identity theft and increased presenteeism, as employees do not have to worry about breaches. 

Employers who choose to offer employer–paid identity theft insurance to their employees should note that the IRS has determined that the value of identity theft insurance is not treated as taxable income to the employee (IRS Announcement 2016-02), further encouraging employers to pursue this offering. 

Taking a closer look will protect you and your employees – in one way or another.

Talk to your HUB International representative  for guidance on the expanding world of voluntary benefits, and the value they can add to your overall benefits program.