National City Offers Customers New Identity Protection Service

Identity theft is a growing problem that plagues the customers of financial institutions across the country. Metro Detroit customers are getting some new ammunition in the war on identity theft.

National City, Cleveland, is marketing a new product to its customers here to protect themselves from identity theft arming them with the ability to watch their credit scores, keep track of accounts and find the culprit if they have the misfortune of being targeted by identity thieves.

Last month, National City launched its "Identity Protect" program to customers in the Detroit area and around the country. Customers can sign up for the service online. After enrolling in the service they will receive a weekly e-mail from TransUnion, unlimited access to a triple-bureau-merged credit report, a quarterly credit report from TransUnion, and up to $25,000 in insurance to protect customers who become victims of the crime.

Murray Brown, director of development for the Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association, said he believes programs like this will catch on among lenders in Detroit and around the country.

Although lenders deal with mortgage and appraisal fraud, Mr. Brown said identity theft among its customers is a much bigger problem for lenders. He said the MMLA is in support legislature that will help protect lenders and consumers from identity theft and mortgage fraud. "To protect their customers from identity theft, lenders should make sure their computers are not accessed by other users. In the old days the only thing lenders had to worry about was Dumpster divers looking for consumer information," he said.

The new service could prove to be profitable for National City since the crime is growing as fast as consumer concern for protecting their credit. A consumer whose credit is affected by identity theft could tip the scales on an approval or denial for a mortgage loan. In 2003, businesses and financial institutions lost $33 billion as a result of identity theft.

Consumers in the Detroit area have been affected by the crime so much that the FBI has chosen the city as one of the locations for its special task force to catch identity thieves. According to the FBI, since 2003, the Detroit area task force has made 81 arrests, obtained 36 indictments and 19 prosecutions.

Last year, Michigan, which includes the Detroit area, was named one of the FBI's 10 hot spots for mortgage fraud.

Thomas Nunoz, product manager for National City's insurance group, said the bank researched identity theft and developed the program over the past year.

AT A GLANCE: National City's 1st Quarter

Net Income $484 million

Avg. Loan Portfolio $101 billion

Mortgage Revenue $283 million

Source: Standard & Poor's

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