As a self-proclaimed “marketing guy,” Greg Meyer knows the key to success in selling any product is understanding where it fits and how it’s needed. But first, it’s about getting in the door — and that’s where identity theft protection comes in, says the agency owner and regional sales director at Worksite Benefit Advisors in Kernersville, N.C.

With the traditional group health broker scrambling to replace lost commissions, many are hesitant to bring up a product like ID theft protection because employees only have so many dollars to contribute to their benefits, Meyer notes. However, “I don’t look at it from that perspective at all,” he says. “[Those brokers] don’t understand that it’s a great door-opening tool that actually gets you in and opens conversations differently.”

In fact, Meyer believes in the product so much that he is working on a private label partnership on ID theft protection that he plans to launch later this year.

It’s a pretty sound investment, considering the fact that ID theft has been the fastest growing crime in America each year for the past 12 years — affecting an estimated 11 million Americans a year, according to Rip Mason, CEO of LegalShield, which covers approximately 1.7 million people.

It’s a “prolific problem” that is especially relevant to employers in that, according to the FTC, it takes a victim on average 55 to 100 hours of time to remediate a single ID theft issue, adds Mason, and the majority of that time is during business hours.

With Target making headlines in December 2013 after a data breach at the retailer compromised the credit and debit card information of millions of Americans, the issue is top-of-mind. “I suspect that will lead to many months — or even years — of problems for the affected individuals,” Mason says of the situation at Target.

The concern about identity theft is expanding beyond just a person’s credit profile, Mason adds. It is now seeping into other areas such as a person’s medical identity and even the identity of children and infants. The youngest person to need ID remediation at LegalShield was only six months old, he says.

Kelly Fristoe, owner of Financial Partners in Wichita Falls, Texas, has been using the Target example to bring the issue up with his clients. And with open enrollment season coming to a close, “We’re going to be focusing on this like a boss come April 1,” says Fristoe, “because we think it’s a very important employee benefit.”

An easy sale

Even with big headlines surrounding the issue, Worksite Benefit Advisors’ Meyer says the product still isn’t very well marketed right now, which makes for a great opportunity for those who are willing to put the work in, he says. “I liken it to the opportunity that was around 20 years ago with Section 125 cafeteria plans,” Meyer adds. “A lot of the small business employers didn’t have one set up for their employees, so it was a real easy conversation starter.

“… I’ve been a voluntary guy my entire career, and I always say when I’m trying to educate brokers, if you’re not talking about it, somebody else is.”

Fristoe calls ID theft protection “one of the most interesting of all employee benefits that an employer can offer.” He’ll often start an employer meeting by asking who has been a victim of ID theft themselves, or knows someone who has, and even in groups as small as six or seven employees, there’s always one or two people who will raise their hand, he says.

“It’s almost like I don’t have to do anything to sell it,” Fristoe says. “It sells itself, because inevitably in that small group you’re going to have an employee that’s had that situation firsthand and they are your sales people in that meeting.”

Although ID theft protection is a product people can buy individually outside of work, they appreciate the convenience of a payroll deduction and discount that comes with a purchase through work, Fristoe explains. He offers a product through LifeLock that gets as low as $8 a month for the basic plan.

“From the broker standpoint, one of the real positives is the ease of sale,” agrees LegalShield’s Mason. However, he cautions that brokers should also pay attention to the features of a plan. For example, does it include a rigorous restoration component?

Documenting an ID theft is a daunting, cumbersome and often complex process, Mason says, and plans that include a licensed investigator with limited power of attorney who will take over a client’s file to complete the restoration process are highly valued, he adds.

“It’s a rather easy sale because of all the national news now about the loss of records and compromise of records,” Mason concludes. “It’s unfortunate, but from a sales standpoint, the need is very demonstrable.”

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