First Financial Foundation Announces Winners of 2014 Erma Dorrer Literary Scholarship

Press Release

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(L to R): 2014 scholarship winners Kimberly Rogers, Demonica Britt, Michael Perry, President/CEO Issa Stephan, and Carly Burrus.

WALL, N.J. – The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation (www.firstffcu.com) recently awarded $500 scholarships to four deserving undergraduate students.

This year’s winners included: Kimberly Rogers of Ocean Township, Georgian Court University; Demonica Britt of Freehold, Seton Hall University; Michael Perry of Freehold, Boston College; and Carly Burrus of Neptune, Coastal Carolina University.

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Pictured above: 2014 scholarship winner Kimberly Rogers with Issa Stephan and her parents.

This year, there was one scholarship topic for student applicants to respond to: In today’s world, identity theft, building credit and maintaining good credit are essential elements in our financial lives.  How will you address these essential financial elements during your college years, and how will you guide your friends and family to address the above elements?  Your response should include details about how to protect yourself and what others should do to protect themselves from ID theft, as well as how you plan to build credit and maintain credit for your financial future.

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Pictured above: 2014 scholarship winner Demonica Britt with Issa Stephan and her daughters.

Applicants submitted a written essay or video clip to answer the question, and had to be a member of the credit union by 12/31/13 and about to attend for fall 2014 or currently attending a 2 or 4 year college anywhere in the country.

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Pictured above: 2014 scholarship winner Michael Perry with Issa Stephan and his parents and grandmother.

“We are thrilled to be able to aid these admirable and bright students in their journey of success and education,” said First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan.  “Our credit union puts a high priority on education, after all – that’s how First Financial began 78 years ago, with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”

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Pictured above: 2014 scholarship winner Carly Burrus with Issa Stephan and her mother.

View more about this year’s scholarships and the First Financial Foundation on First Financial’s website.

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About the First Financial Foundation:

Since 1994, First Financial has supported the Monmouth & Ocean communities with the Erma Dorrer Scholarship Program. Today, that program has been extended into the First Financial Foundation to assist charitable organizations of the Monmouth & Ocean County Communities.  The First Financial Federal Credit Union Foundation is a non-profit working to support a variety of community programs and organizations throughout Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  We direct 100% of your contributions to programs because all administrative expenses are paid for by First Financial Federal Credit Union.  To learn more, visit www.firstffcu.com.

How to Assess a Neighborhood When House Hunting

House-HuntingWhen you buy a house, you aren’t just buying a house. In a way, you’re buying a neighborhood. After all, you’ll likely choose a home partly because it’s close to work, the schools are great, or it’s walking distance to restaurants and stores.

In fact, you could argue that picking the right neighborhood is more important than picking the right house. The last thing you want is to buy property in a place where everyone is trying to leave. So if you’re looking for a home for your house, here are some things to consider.

1. What to look for. If you’ve been focused on your dream house and not your dream neighborhood, the most popular areas tend to be ones that offer an instant sense of community to those relocating there. If living in the right community is important to you, then it’s important to think about these five factors:

  1. Aesthetics. An attractive neighborhood indicates the residents care about it.
  2. Affordability. Sure, you want an inexpensive house, but you also want to be able to afford the cost of living in the neighborhood.
  3. Safe environment. Nobody wants a criminal as a neighbor.
  4. Easy access to goods and services. Can you make a quick run to the bank or grocery store, or will every day be a headache behind the wheel due to traffic congestion or construction?
  5. Walking distance to goods and services. If exercise and a sense of community are important to you, find a house near the establishments you’ll be frequenting that is accessible by foot.

2. Online research. You probably use websites like Zillow.com, Realtor.com, Trulia.com, or Homes.com to search for a new house. But there are neighborhood-related websites and apps as well. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:

  • HomeFacts.com. This website contains mostly neighborhood statistics and information, but it also has data on more than 100 million U.S. homes (type in the street address of your prospective house to get the scoop on the whole area). Wondering how many foreclosures are in the area or if there are any environmental concerns? This is your site.
  • NeighborhoodScout.com. Read up on crime, school, and real estate reports for the neighborhood you’re considering.
  • Greatschools.org. Here, you can find reviews written by parents and students of schools in the neighborhood you’re considering. You can also find test scores and other data that may help you decide if this is a school you want your kids to attend.
  • CommuteInfo.org. This site offers a commuting calculator. Plug in information like miles driven and how many miles per gallon your car averages, and the calculator will give you an average cost of what your commute costs may look like in a month and in a year.

3. Red flags. As you’d expect, spotting a neighborhood on the decline isn’t rocket science. For example, pay attention to the property maintenance – overgrown lawns and shrubs, toys left outside, garbage bins not taken in – often reflect that the area is not well cared for and it can negatively affect the property value.

Though things are subject to change, selecting the right neighborhood is important. Your neighborhood’s character will likely shape your family’s character.

If you’re looking to purchase or refinance a home, First Financial has a variety of options available to you, including 10, 15, and 30 year mortgages. We offer great low rates, no pre-payment penalties, easy application process, financing on your primary residence, vacation home or investment property, plus so much more! For rates and more information, call us at 866.750.0100, Option 4 for the Lending Department.*

You can also sign up for our Mortgage Rate Text Messaging Service to receive updates on our low mortgage rates straight to your mobile phone. To be a part of the program, text FIRSTRATE to 69302 and each time our mortgage rates change, we’ll send you a text message with the new rates.** 

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR.

**Standard text messaging and data rates may apply.

Article courtesy of US News Online by Geoff Williams.

ID Theft Risks That Lurk in Your Child’s Backpack

Girl walking away from School Bus while texting on her phoneWhile you’re out searching for the perfect back-to-school backpack for your child, the more important consideration other than style, size, and color should be — what can happen if a dishonest person gets a hold of it? The things your child carries in his or her backpack can become a huge financial headache if they fall into the wrong hands.

With identity-related crimes at historic levels, the odds are better than ever that a dishonest person will know the basics of taking advantage of the kinds of personally identifiable information, sensitive data (like passwords and credit card numbers), and the many other keys to your household economy that can lurk in your child’s backpack.

Here’s a short list of what a relatively creative thief might find in your child’s backpack, and what you can do to prevent the worst from happening.

1. A Smartphone

While obvious to you (hopefully), does your child understand the serious potential for disaster that a walk-about smartphone can bring to your doorstep?

It can be as simple as a scammer dialing 611 and ordering new services. Chances are good that there’s enough information in your child’s backpack for a motivated thief to get your name and thus the keys to your telephonic kingdom.

But there are other identity indignities that can be done. Many people store user name and password information on the Notes app of their phones. The Notes may contain other informational cracks and crevices as well and open up unsuspecting third parties — relatives and friends — to scams. Email scams, grandparent scams, an iTunes or apps shopping spree, malware installation — so many tidbits to exploit.

What to do: Talk to your kids about the dangers of an unsecured phone and discuss basic data storage details with them — like what information shouldn’t be on their phones. Is the phone locked with a passcode? It should be! Also have them set strong (think creatively alpha-numeric) passwords, and a Find Me app to erase the contents should the device fall into the wrong hands.

2. Their Laptop

You don’t need to be a movie buff to know that a computer is a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Most issues associated with a lost phone come to bear here as well. Emails can be sent to relatives or strangers in the service of stealing money or wreaking havoc.

Beyond the irresistible cornucopia of files that may well be saved on the device, email is a treasure trove of personally identifiable information — everything from credit card numbers to more data like name, address, email addresses and birthdays — pieces of a puzzle that can be assembled to present a believable story to a customer service representative and then steal valuable goods and services, or used as a fly trap to accumulate even more personally identifiable information.

Does your child have access to your Netflix account? How about Amazon or iTunes? Where else have they gone in cyberspace that might have their information — or yours? Open social media sites that are set to login automatically afford a wide vista of scamming opportunities too.

What to do: Make sure your child gets into the habit of logging out of all their online accounts, and that they don’t store sensitive information on their laptops. Talk to them about the wisdom of not saving user ID and password information, and how to make a good one. Finally, have your child set a password — shared with you — to protect their device against the wrong person accessing it.

3. Keys and Name Tags

So, this is pretty straightforward: If your child uses a karabiner to attach his or her keys to their backpack, you’ve got a potential robbery waiting to happen.

Additionally, there are apps that can allow a fraudster (as well as a person who might want to use the app to avoid unnecessary inconvenience) to make a copy of a key that a locksmith can duplicate.

What to do: Tell your child to keep the keys to your home in their pocket rather than on their back.

4. Gaming Device

Playstation Vita is a popular gaming device — and not the only device that could cause you a world of woe should it fall into the wrong hands — but we’ll single it out for the sake of illustration.

The good news: Your personally identifiable information is safe even if someone grabs the device, because it’s password-protected and associated with your gamer’s access to the network.

That doesn’t mean that a bad player can’t do some damage. First, they can play games and wreck your child’s sterling reputation in the community. Worse: Whoever has that device can buy games and run up a hefty bill. One-click purchased games are something any malicious third party can rack up in the way of a very expensive just-because crime.

What to do: Have your child set a passcode for access to the device and make sure they share it with you.

When it comes to data security, best practices are universal. It’s your job to pass on what your kids need to know to stay safe and keep your family out of the crosshairs of ID theft.

To cover all your financial bases, enroll in one of our First Financial’s ID Theft Protection product plans – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit.* To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and find out how you can enroll today – as well as get started with your first 90 days free!**

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

**Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program.

Article Source: Adam Levin for Credit.com, http://www.today.com/parents/identity-theft-risks-lurk-your-kids-backpack-1D80042370

Will Paying Off My Car Loan Help My Credit Score?

Credit-Score-325x222There are a lot of different kinds of credit out there. One of the most common forms is the auto loan. Though we are all itching to pay off our long-term debts and own something free and clear, there are a few precautions to know about before racing to get that statement to read zero.

To determine if paying off your car loan will help your credit score, it is important to understand several factors that go into your credit score.

Multiple facets of FICO

First, it’s important to understand the components that make up your FICO credit score. There are five key elements that are used to makeup that all-important number:

  • 35% of your score is weighted toward your payment history
  • 30% is weighted toward the amounts owed on your credit cards
  • 15% is devoted to length of credit history
  • 10% is generated by new credit
  • 10% comes from types of credit used.

The relative importance of each category depends on the consumer themselves.

If you have an auto loan that you’ve been diligent about paying, you’ve benefitted from that 35% devoted to payment history. By paying it down, you are also contributing to that 30% element of amount owed, since theoretically you are decreasing your credit utilization rate. However, if you’ve been increasing the balance on other forms of credit, that may cancel out some of that good behavior.

If you have a 3 to 5 year car loan, you also have length of credit history going for you. The new credit category doesn’t really apply in this scenario.

Did you know First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection program not only protects you and your family members from ID Theft, but it also monitors its users’ credit reports? When you enroll in ID Theft Protection with First Financial, your credit report is monitored continuously for new or suspicious activity. If new activity occurs, an alert is sent via email and text message, allowing you to confirm whether or not the activity is fraudulent. To enroll in our ID Theft Protection services, stop into any First Financial branch or call 866.750.0100.*

Types of Credit

But what’s interesting is the 10% weighted to types of credit used. On a positive note, a car loan alters the types of credit you have, assuming you have things like credit cards or even a mortgage.  However, if you pay it off, you may eliminate this type of installment loan as a type of credit used (this is a very different type of credit than a credit card).

Your ability to pay installment accounts, in addition to others, demonstrates that you are responsible and diligent enough to plan your finances around all these different types of credit.

The Biggest Factor

Weighing against all this, however, is a large factor that requires you to look more holistically at your credit lifestyle. A general rule of thumb is that if you can pay off a debt of any kind, in full, do so (with the exception of a mortgage).

Need to get your credit score in check? Try First Financial’s First Score Program, a low cost, interactive session ($30) with a First Financial expert, which simulates your credit score with various “what if” scenarios. You can email us at firstscore@firstffcu.com or call 866.750.0100, Option 4 to get started.

If you have a great deal of debt, we also have a free, anonymous online debt management tool called Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions. 

Article courtesy of Nerd Wallet Online

 

What’s New? EMV Chip Card Technology FAQs

emv_chip_2The days of the credit card’s magnetic stripe appear numbered, with special-chip, or EMV, credit cards poised to immigrate onto America’s payments landscape. EMV-enabled cards, named for developers Europay, MasterCard and Visa, have an embedded microprocessor chip that encrypts transaction data differently for each purchase. Some chip cards require a personal identification number to complete a transaction, while others only require a signature. EMV is widely used in Europe and Asia and is steadily being adopted as the standard type of credit card worldwide. Everywhere, that is, except the U.S. – but maybe not for long.

What is EMV?
EMV chip technology is becoming the global standard for credit card and debit card payments. Named after its original developers (Europay, MasterCard® and Visa®), this smart chip technology features payment instruments (cards, mobile phones, etc.) with embedded microprocessor chips that store and protect cardholder data. This standard has many names worldwide and may also be referred to as: “chip and PIN” or “chip and signature.”

What is chip technology?
Chip technology is an evolution in our payment system that will help increase security, reduce identity theft and fraud and enable the use of future value-added applications. Chip cards are standard bank cards that are embedded with a micro computer chip. Some may require a PIN instead of a signature to complete the transaction process.

How does EMV chip technology work?
The EMV-enabled device will communicate with the chip inside the smart card to determine whether or not the card is authentic. Generally, the terminal will prompt the cardholder to sign or enter a PIN to validate their identity. This process enhances the authentication of both the card and cardholder, effectively reducing the possibility that a business will accept a counterfeit card or be held liable for a fraud-related chargeback.

What makes EMV different than the traditional magnetic stripe card payment?Simply put, EMV (also referred to as chip-and-PIN, chip-and-signature, chip-and-choice, or generally as chip technology) is the most recent advancement in a global initiative to combat fraud and protect sensitive payment data in the card-present environment. A cardholder’s confidential data is more secure on a chip-enabled payment card than on a magnetic stripe (magstripe) card, as the former supports dynamic authentication, while the latter does not (the data is static). Consequently, data from a traditional magstripe card can be copied (skimmed) with a simple and inexpensive card reading device – enabling criminals to reproduce counterfeit cards for use in both the retail and the CNP environment. Chip (EMV) technology is effective in combating counterfeit fraud with its dynamic authentication capabilities (dynamic values existing within the chip itself that, when verified by the point-of-sale device, ensure the authenticity of the card).

What other incentives are there to accept chip cards?
In addition to the reduction of fraud and related chargebacks, there are other cost savings associated with EMV acceptance. The payment brands are doing their part to ensure that chip-bearing customers can pay at chip-enabled businesses. For example, Visa and MasterCard have issued upcoming rules and guidelines for processors and merchants to support EMV chip technology. Another Visa and MasterCard ruling is the liability shift. Once this goes into effect, merchants who have not made the investment in chip-enabled technology may be held financially liable for card-present fraud that could have been prevented with the use of a chip-enabled POS system.

Is this technology unique to the United States?
No. The chip technology standard for payment was first used in France in 1992. Today, there are more than 1 billion chip cards used around the world. The U.S. is one of the few industrialized nations that have not fully transitioned to this technology standard.

Why invest in chip card acceptance now?
Preventing the growth of fraudulent activity is one of the main reasons the industry is moving toward EMV technology. Chip cards make it difficult for fraud organizations to target cardholders and businesses alike. As a result, more and more chip cards are being introduced by U.S. financial institutions in order to support and switch over to this technology.

To cover all your financial bases, enroll in one of our First Financial’s ID Theft Protection product plans – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit.* To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and find out how you can enroll today – as well as get started with your first 90 days free!**

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

**Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program.

*Click here view the original article sources by Chase Paymentech and Bankrate.

3 Ways Consumers Can Fall Victim to Identity Theft

Identity-Theft-CreditThere’s really only one way to protect yourself from identity theft. Stop spending money and trust no one. It’s pretty easy.

OK, it isn’t easy. Talk to enough victims of identity theft, and you start to realize that it really can happen to anyone – and sometimes, no matter how careful you are, it can happen to you. That’s why it helps to study how people’s identities were stolen and learn from it. Here a few ways identity theft happens along with strategies to prevent it.

1. Information is out there for anyone to see. Of course you don’t want to leave credit card statements lying around in public places, and when you discard your financial paperwork, it’s smart to run it through a shredder. But sometimes when you’re out in the world, your information can’t help but become a little exposed. You type a PIN number onto a pad and realize someone might have been looking over your shoulder. You hand your credit card to a waiter, who disappears for a while with it. Or you’re in a crowded store, practically rubbing elbows with an identity thief.

Sarah Dugo, co-founder of College Savings Dolls, got an unwanted education on identity theft a few years ago. She was at a crowded Best Buy and bought a big-screen TV for the Super Bowl.

“The cashier took my credit card and delivery information, but they left it all on the computer screen and walked away from the check-out area. I was at one of the checkouts in the smaller section of the store, not the main front exit,” Dugo says.

It turns out that the thief used Dugo’s credit card information to order the same big-screen TV – and had it sent to his address. “That’s how they caught him,” Dugo says. Still, the crook did enough damage to her credit report and credit score that it took two years for her to straighten it all out.

She was in one of those situations where the employee ringing her up was interrupted by a customer before finishing her transaction. Dugo isn’t positive, but she thinks that’s how someone was able to see her information and either jot everything down or snap a photo of the computer screen.

Dugo isn’t sure what she could have done differently, but she figures that if she is ever shopping on another crowded weekend, she may make her purchase at the main entrance, where department sales clerks aren’t likely to be pulled away from the register.

2. You put your wallet or handbag in a vulnerable position. “Several years ago, I was shopping at a Safeway near my house. I was in the shampoo aisle and a well-dressed man asked me to help him find a product his wife asked him to get,” says Caren Kagan Evans, CEO of ECI Communications. While Evans pointed to the top shelf to show him where the product was, another man took Evans’ wallet out of her handbag, which was in the top part of her cart.

“I didn’t realize my wallet had been stolen until I went to check out,” Evans says. “I ran home, contacted the credit agencies, contacted my bank and of course contacted my credit card companies.”

Unfortunately, her Social Security number was printed on her health insurance card, so the thief now had that information as well.

“This was a large group of people that were doing this kind of thing up and down the East Coast,” she says. “In a matter of just an hour, the team had used my cards at gas stations, Target, and other locations. They also were able to get checks printed since they had my social, and thousands of dollars disappeared from my checking account.”

Evans says she was lucky because she got her money back and was able to fix everything relatively quickly. “I have heard stories of people who had their identities stolen where the perpetrator took out mortgages on properties, and stories of people who literally spent years getting everything straightened out,” she says.

As for where Evans went wrong, she says it is easy to look at the situation now and realize her handbag was vulnerable. It was in the top part of the cart, and she was never planning on leaving it out of her sight. So you could take away from this story that you should never trust a stranger, even one who simply wants some help finding shampoo – or, better yet, remember to keep your eye on your purse or wallet since somebody else otherwise will.

Evans also says she no longer signs her credit card receipts, reasoning that a thief can study the receipt and later fake her signature. Sales clerks don’t push her to sign for merchandise, she says – they’ll just ask to see her identification. “And when they do, I thank them,” Evans says. “I appreciate it.”

burglar-for-identity-theft-small3. You trusted someone a little too much. Everyone knows the importance of vetting people who work for you, and yet you can never say it enough.

Arthur Gregory is a serial entrepreneur. He’s a partner in two restaurants and owns EatUsa.net. Back in 2003, the printer who made his menus overheard Gregory tell a colleague that he was looking for a bookkeeper.

“I do that,” the printer said. And Gregory, who liked how his menus were made, figured he’d give him the job.

As it turns out, the man was trustworthy when it came to menus, but not when it came to bookkeeping. “He stole my identity,” Gregory says.

And he didn’t just go out to a department store and buy things in Gregory’s name. He took out corporate credit cards in Gregory’s name and tried to take over his business, contacting vendors in Gregory’s name and doing a ton of damage. Gregory is still working on getting misinformation off of his credit report. Now he keeps all of his personal information in a lock box, so not even his current bookkeeper can see it.

Gregory, unfortunately, is also a case study in why it’s impossible to prevent identity theft. Even if you were willing to live out the rest of your life on a deserted island or in a cave to wall yourself off from problems, you could still discover you’re already a victim of identity theft.

As you can see, identity theft is an immense problem throughout the world and creeping its way up to becoming more and more frequent. As previously stated, there is no way to completely prevent identity theft, but there are certainly ways to minimize your risk and protect your finances. Enrolling in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!*

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. **Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

Article source courtesy of Geoff Williams of US News.