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Nationwide Financial Services

In the Boardroom With...
Ms. Deb Harmon, MBA
Project Manager
Identity Theft
Property Product Office
Nationwide Financial Services (NYSE: NFS) Thanks for joining us today, Deb. Please give our audience an overview of your background and your role at Nationwide.

Deb Harmon: I’ve worked for Nationwide almost 21 years. My career background is quite diverse, but the most rewarding and challenging opportunities have focused on project management in which new products are introduced into the marketplace. While in this role, I have supported various initiatives aimed at returning the homeowners line to profitability. Most recently, I helped develop and implement the identity theft endorsement, which is available to homeowners, tenant, and condominium policyholders. My extensive project management experience has been invaluable in achieving record speed-to-market success with this product. Due to the overwhelming success of this product, a $99 standalone policy was launched first quarter 2006. Nationwide recently announced that it has expanded the availability of its’ ID Theft Protection coverage. We understand that this coverage was initially available as an endorsement on homeowner policies and now it’s available as a standalone product. Is there any data or study you can share with us regarding how the popularity of this product has grown?

Deb Harmon: Almost every day brings the emergence of a story about a security breach, a new ID theft scam, or tips to prevent becoming a victim. Due to the success of our $45 endorsement, the next logical step was to offer a true standalone policy which can be purchased by anyone, regardless if you’re a Nationwide policyholder or not. The sales of our endorsements have been closely monitored and exceeded initial expectations. The product is was a success because:

  • It was launched at the right time.
  • The public has educated itself and has been proactive in purchasing this  coverage.
  • Agents recognized the importance of this product
  • It is competitively priced, provides more coverage, and includes a comprehensive identity restoration service.

Later this year another valuable enhancement will be added to our coverage at no extra charge. This service will continue to distinguish Nationwide’s products in the identity theft market arena. What are the main benefits and features of this ID Theft Policy and what does it cost?

Deb Harmon: Nationwide has introduced two ID theft products that are competitively priced in the marketplace; our offering includes insurance plus a restoration service that goes far beyond what is available from our competitors. Our endorsement can be added to a homeowners, tenant, or condominium policy for $45 annually. The standalone policy can be purchased by anyone for $99 annually.

Nationwide’s ID Theft coverage is a bargain. On its own, ID Theft Assist recovery and restoration service costs $150 a year, per household. Due to our association with ID Theft Assist, we are able to provide our policyholders access to a superior ID theft restoration service together with our insurance coverage. Due to this partnership, Nationwide policyholders have access to a superior ID theft restoration service, plus the insurance coverage.

Both the endorsement and the standalone include the same coverage:

1.  Insurance coverage that caps at $25,000 with no deductible. This covers:

  • Lost income (maximum $250 a day; total of $5,000).
  • Attorney fees.
  • Costs of executing affidavits
  • Costs of certified mail and long-distance phone calls
  • Loan reapplication fees

2. The service recovery component of our product quickly addresses the steps necessary to restore a customer’s identity. Nationwide has partnered with ID Theft Assist to offer best-in-class ID theft recovery protection. If a customer becomes the victim of ID theft, an experienced advocate works on their behalf to restore their identity. With our coverage it’s not necessary to pay additional fees, purchase kits, or be told what to do. The burden of recovery is removed from the victim and handled by experts in the field. Some of the services offered include: 

  • 24/7 call-center that captures all necessary information and offers a live person to speak with at any time.
  • Real-time technology, including direct on-line access to TransUnion.
  • Provides the FTC’s uniform ID theft affidavit, answers any questions with regards to completing and submitting the affidavit to the proper authorities, credit bureaus, and creditors.
  • Obtains list of creditors to be contacted: contacts them with separate itemized fraudulent account statements for each fraudulent occurrence.  Assist the customer with itemizing.
  • Notifies the three major credit-reporting agencies of the ID theft; puts a fraud alert on their credit reports.
  • Assists the customer with replacing driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, and any other identifying documentation.
  • Translates whenever necessary in the event the caller is overseas and needs help communicating with the local police in order to file a report.
  • Provides emergency cash advance to customers when theft occurs away from home (must be secured with a credit card).
  • Arrange access, when needed, for up to three in-person sessions with a professional in our national network of Behavioral Specialists to help the Covered Member deal with the emotional trauma of Identity Theft. It seems to be front page news on a regular basis… personal data for tens of thousands of consumers getting “lost” or stolen from a major financial institution. Is the problem getting better or getting worse? Are government mandates to secure data at financial institutions and in healthcare environments helping?

Deb Harmon: There are many reasons why data spills or theft are common today. First, organized -- as well as unorganized -- crime has targeted business' customer and associate data, because there is a vigorous and active international market for this type of information.

There are also many state and federal laws, including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, HIPAA, FACTA, that require companies to safeguard customer data, as well as 23 state laws and several federal banking regulations requiring customer notification in the event of a data privacy breach. The later set of laws have resulted in over-notification in some respect, because many of the most public events are process or operational errors -- mismailing and lost tapes -- rather than intentional criminal acts.

In a bizarre twist, the government security mandates have also resulted in an escalating battle between the bad guys and the good guys, as the former create ever more innovative ways to stealing data and the later react to counter these threats. “Phishing” threats are becoming more prevalent and sophisticated yet many end-users do not understand how a “Phishing” attack may lead directly to Identity Theft. Please give us an overview of this type of threat and what people can do to protect themselves?

Deb Harmon: “Phishing” involves inquiries about your personal information (SSN, passwords, account numbers, etc). Typically, this is encountered on-line using a phoney e-mail or luring customers to a look-alike site, but it can happen over the phone as well. There are a variety of ways to avoid the “phishing” trap. I recommend the following steps:

  • Never open e-mails if you don’t recognize the name of the sender.
  • Never provide sensitive information in an email you have not initiated. If you do receive a suspicious email, contact your credit card company or bank directly.
  • Do not respond to these emails. Reputable companies do not send notes asking for information to be verified.
  • By no means provide any personal or sensitive information to someone that
    has initiated a call. Many scams exist to retrieve personal information; one of the latest ones I have heard about involves failure to appear for jury duty. 
  • Be alert and sensitive. If things seem too good to be true, it probably is. offers a number of resources for the protection of consumers. How about an overview of these resources for our audience.

Deb Harmon: Currently, offers two On Your Side® stories to educate consumers and protect customers. One story focuses one a “phishing” scam where callers are being advised their bank accounts have been compromised and posted on the internet. The scammer requests your personal information to “verify” your account information. This type of scam and other variations have surfaced in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

Another article centers around our ID theft protection (what it covers), and the steps you can take to prevent becoming a victim. Thank you very much for your time today, Deb. Is there any other subject you would like to talk about?

Deb Harmon: I encourage your readers to visit A comprehensive list of ways to reduce your chances of becoming an identity theft victim are located on our site.

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