Cybercriminals have targeted universities, retailers and hospitals in massive hacks over the past couple of years, exposing millions of Americans’ personal information.

As the threat of being hacked continues to grow, an increasing number of employers are looking at identity theft protection as a voluntary benefit they can offer to employees.

“There’s always a conversation around voluntary benefits that employers have: Is this something that we the employer need to be offering, or is this something people should buy on their own because it’s readily available?” says Joe Ellis, senior vice president at professional services company CBIZ.

Some reports point to the former.

A 2016 voluntary benefits survey by Willis Towers Watson found that identity theft protection, offered by 35% of employers in 2015, could double to nearly 70% by 2018.

Companies like Tempe, Arizona-based LifeLock are expanding their offerings to employers to accommodate the growing demand.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

The identity theft protection company rolled out new features to its Benefit Elite package Jan. 25, which now includes account activity alerts, a privacy monitor tool that reduces public exposure of personal information, and stolen fund reimbursement, which offers up to a $1 million reimbursement for fraudulent bank and investment account withdrawals and filed tax returns.

See also: Symantec to buy LifeLock for $2.3B

“Ultimately, we’ve found that employers want more comprehensive benefits packages that provide security across different impactful areas of their lives, including finances, health and wellness, and retirement,” says Terry Reams, general manager of employee benefit protection solutions at LifeLock. “Identity fraud is a serious problem, and can take a toll on employees’ time and emotions. For employers who are looking for ways to retain top talent, paying for identity theft protection is a way to enhance a benefit package in a meaningful way to employees.”

The need for identity theft protection is clearly present, reports indicate.

In 2015 alone, hackers stole $15 billion from more than 13 million U.S. consumers, according to the “2016 Identity Fraud Study” conducted by research-based consulting firm Javelin.

Meanwhile, nearly half (49.2%) of the 490,220 complaints in the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network in 2015 reported claims of government documents and benefits fraud.

CBIZ’s Ellis says the low-to-no cost benefit of identity theft protection works well as a component to a company’s existing wellness program.
See also: Agency alliance launches identity theft protection

“It’s a no-brainer,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a reason why employers wouldn’t offer it, unless it’s an administrative issue. It’s inexpensive, and I think the idea of tying it into the wellness or well-being program is the way to do it.”

Employees take comfort in knowing they are covered, he says, and that lack of stress reduces absenteeism.

While identity theft protection might seem like an obvious voluntary benefit, Ellis is skeptical that it will reach the Willis Towers Watson’s projected 70% benchmark by next year.

“With the ACA and with changes to labor laws, employers aren’t necessarily having these conversations on a daily basis,” he says. “They’re much more focused on other issues.”

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