By Bob Meyer
Keeping employees happy and providing them with a solid benefits package is an ongoing task for employers. Employees are averaging about four to five years at a job versus the 20 to 30 years people used to spend at one place. To help hold onto valuable employees, employers are offering even more voluntary benefits these days. Some of the more common voluntary benefits that have been offered for years are dental, accident, vision and disability. It’s plain to see that benefits have to keep up with the times and technologies being offered. Now a new set of voluntary benefits are being offered such as critical illness, student loan reimbursement, pet insurance and paternity leave.
The most popular new benefit being offered these days is identity theft protection. According to a recent study by Willis Tower Watson, it is predicted that identity theft protection, which was offered by 35 percent of employers in 2015, could double to nearly 70 percent by 2018, making it the fastest growing type of employee voluntary benefit over the next couple of years. For this reason it is important for brokers and employers to be educated in this benefit and see the value it can deliver to employees
Identity theft is a growing concern for many Americans and based on the numbers it should be a concern for everyone. It is said that about one of four Americans will experience identity theft. These days everything from checking your bank balance, to reading your Facebook feed to buying a new pair of shoes is all done from the convenience of our phones and computers. With more and more things being done digitally, your information is more accessible for hackers and thieves to access and use fraudulently.
Many people think of identity theft as fraudulent charges on their credit card, but identity theft goes much further than that and can be more complicated to resolve than just letting your credit card company know that you were not the one responsible for certain charges. For those who are not familiar with identity theft and various ways it can occur, here is a list of the major types of identity theft.
• Tax ID theft—An individual’s social security number is used to falsely file tax returns with the IRS or state government.
• Child ID theft—Children’s identities are very vulnerable because the theft of their identities often goes undetected for many years. Once the child reaches an age where they are looking to use their identity, the damage has already been done. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, “The chance for a child’s information right now in this day and age, before they reach adulthood, to be compromised in a breach is 100 percent.” For this reason when employers are looking into offering employees identity theft protection they should make sure that the coverage includes spouses and children.
• Medical ID theft—This happens when someone’s personal information has been stolen to get medical services or to issue fraudulent billing to the victim’s health insurance provider. This is currently the fastest growing form of identity theft!
• Criminal Identity Theft—When someone fraudulently gives another person’s name and personal information (ex: driver’s license, date of birth, or Social Security number) to a law enforcement officer upon arrest or during an investigation. This type of identity theft can be very timely and costly to resolve.
• Senior ID theft—Seniors are usually in constant contact with individuals that access their personal information such as medical professionals, caregivers and staff at long term care facilities. For this reason seniors are vulnerable and often the target of many scams.
• Social ID theft—A thief uses an individual’s name, photo and other personal information to create a phony account on a social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
With all these different forms of identity theft happening, there is more and more stress surrounding the idea of becoming a victim of ID theft. For this reason employers are offering identity theft coverage as a way to help provide employees with a sense of security and help to improve financial wellness. Employers are seeing that by helping their employees with financial wellness, they are more likely to create a more engaged and productive workforce. When employees are stressed with the burdens of their financial well being they are more likely to be distracted and need more time off.
The stress is not just the fear of becoming a victim but the stress associated with resolving the identity theft once it has occurred. According to the Federal Trade Commission that tracks identity theft statistics, they estimate that “recovering from identity theft takes an average of six months and 200 hours of work.” In more complicated cases it may take even longer for the issue to be resolved. For employers this is a real problem because the agencies and authorities that must be contacted to resolve identity theft are not open in the evening or on the weekends. Therefore employers are left either paying for employees to resolve their issues while on the clock or paying for lack of productivity when an employee has to take time off to rectify the situation. Either way the employer ends up paying into the cost. By providing identity theft coverage the employer can help to save time and money and reduce stress for the employees.
Identity theft coverage is a rather new type of employee benefit being offered, so employers and HR professionals need to be familiar with the types of features often provided by identity theft providers and how those features can help to reduce employee stress and time away. When selecting an identity theft provider, here are some of the types of services you want to make sure are offered.
• Customer service line—Make sure that the provider selected has a line for employees to call for info once the employee’s identity has been compromised. These call services should help walk the victim of identity theft through the process of what they need to do. Also with these services many providers can even arrange three way calls with credit bureaus and other agencies to help make sure things are going in an efficient and timely matter. Some providers even assign a customer service rep to the individual’s case from the time they call in initially. This is a great perk to have because it will save the customer time having to explain their situation to each new person they speak with.
• Reimbursement—Make sure that coverage purchased offers some type of reimbursement for time and money lost. Not only should the provider help to reimburse for any financial loss, they should also reimburse for the costs associated with time it takes to resolve the issue. For example if an employee needs to take two days off work to fly to another state to prove that they are who they say they are, these costs for time away from work can be reimbursed by the identity theft protection provider rather than the company having to pay the employee for the time taken off. Many identity theft protection providers will also cover cost of child care if someone needs to take time to rectify their situation.
• Resolution services—Many identity theft protection providers offer a $1 million guarantee. This means that the identity theft protection providers will spend up to $1 million dollars to resolve your issues. Knowing when the company has spent $1million dollars on a specific case is impossible, so looking for a provider with an unlimited guarantee is a good way to make sure that at some point the identity theft provider does not stop working to resolve the issue until it is fixed.
• Family Coverage—Knowing who is covered under that identity theft coverage is very important. Some providers price their products on a per person basis, others automatically cover the entire family under the policy. Being aware of this is very important because if the pricing is done on an individual basis the coverage may become very costly once the whole family is covered under the policy.
• Monitoring Services—At this point in time identity theft cannot really be fully prevented, but being aware of when your personal information is being used to do things such as make major purchases, changing your address, or set up new utilities is key to resolving the issue in a timely manner. If an individual is alerted about their personal information being used and it was not authorized by them, they can notify the identity protection provider to help keep a better eye on their information and make sure it does not lead to bigger issues down the road.
Employers looking to offer identity theft coverage can offer this benefit on a voluntary or employer paid basis. On December 30, 2015, the IRS announced that identity theft coverage being offered to all employees can now be offered as a tax free benefit if the benefit is paid for with payroll deductions or is offered as an employer paid benefit. Prior to the December 2015 IRS announcement, this benefit was only able to be provided on a tax free basis if the employer had a history of breach. With this announcement the IRS is working to make it easier for employers to offer this benefit.
With identity theft it is not a matter of if it will happen but rather when it will happen. At some point all individuals will need to have this type of coverage, so the sooner it is offered the better. With rates for this type of coverage starting as low as four dollars per month with some carriers, can employers afford not to offer this coverage?
is the President of Meyer Group, a benefits consulting firm that has been serving clients in the Midwest for over 35 years. Meyer Group helps to build and customize benefits packages for clients and brokers. Meyer is a University of Missouri graduate and is a diehard Mizzou football fan to this day. Meyer has a specialization in self-funding and Affordable Care Act compliance. He is a visionary with years of industry knowledge and he is always looking to be ahead of the curve in the benefits industry. Six years ago he launched Compliance Source, a company created to help companies navigate the laws surrounding the ACA and ensuring that companies remain compliant. Meyer's most recent venture is helping to launch a new consumer friendly website, FreedomIDdirect.com. His firm has been offering identity theft protection services for years to groups and associations but now in addition to helping groups attain this type of coverage, he is helping to make sure that the same great coverage can be offered to individuals at lower prices than leading competitors. Meyer can be reached at Meyer Group, 9201 Watson Road, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63126. Phone: 314-961-7077. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.myrgrp.com.