Identity Theft Strikes American Idol

Think it can't happen to you? American Idol contestant Diana DeGarmo had her identity stolen according to an article at Bankrate.com. DeGarmo was runner-up in season three of the hit tv show.

I did a blog recently on how American Idol and insurance were related, but it certainly didn't deal with identity theft!

DeGarmo was interviewed about her experience. She indicated that a fan stole her personal information and was using DeGarmo's credit cards to rack up expenses. Most of the purchases were online, so there was no opportunity for a person to check signatures -- which is the primary way that cardholders prove their identity when making a transaction in person.

DeGarmo went on to reveal how the fan got her information: "This person sent a key logger onto my computer, which is a form of spyware -- very similar to what terrorists use, scarily enough. The person can basically see a full mirror image of exactly what I'm typing on the computer and had broken into some e-mails between my mother and I and had gotten enough information through that."

DeGarmo is still dealing with the fall-out from this identity theft, after almost a year. She calls it "a never ending uphill battle".

Which brings me back to an Editor's blog posting that I did on identity theft and identity theft insurance. Generally, I've recommended a good paper shredder to protect your identity and told readers to avoid buying this insurance. However, here's a crime that was perpetrated from start to finish on the internet. No paper of any kind was involved -- just capturing information on the net. One internet purchase on the part of Ms DeGarmo, plus information she exchanged with her mother, and her goose was cooked.

So, how do you protect yourself?

Well, I am reconsidering my position on identity theft insurance. While the insurance doesn't cover the costs of the fraud itself, many jurisdictions are finally catching up with laws that protect the innocent individual. As a result, the primary long-term hassle to you is restoring your identity as your own. Identity theft insurance will cover that, including legal costs.

That doesn't mean that all identity theft insurance is a good deal. While you might want to look at some companies that offer it, be sure to read the details of any policy carefully. Don't buy it if there are too many exclusions or limits on the benefits.

Monique L. Attinger
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