Identity Theft

Criminals Still Rely on Real-World Identity Theft

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Many consumers across the country might know all about the threats they face online when it comes to identity theft and the possibility of losing their personal or financial data. But in truth, the far bigger threat exists in the real world.

Crimes related to the theft of wallets, purses, personal identification and computers made up 73 percent of all identity fraud cases last year, based on a study of insurance claims made to Travelers Insurance in 2011. That compares to just 15 percent for online identity theft and data breaches, 10 percent in forgery and 2 percent for postal fraud.

Further, only 10 percent of those who filed such claims could identify the person responsible for the crime in question, the report said. That may be an indicator that while consumers are keeping their guard up about sharing sensitive information online, they might not be doing so in the real world.

“When everyday essentials, like wallets or drivers licenses, are stolen or go missing, identity fraud often follows,” said Joe Reynolds, identity fraud product manager at Travelers. “Credit cards, drivers licenses and other sources of personal information enable criminals to commit a fraud or crime, all in your name. People are not always aware that someone is illegally using their identity until suspicious activity appears on their monthly financial statement. It is critical that consumers closely review these monthly documents, and remember to immediately call the bank if they suspect fraudulent activity.”

And in these fraud cases the most common way in which criminals rip off consumers is through use of their current accounts, which made up 47 percent of all identity fraud, the report said. Another 32 percent of incidents involved the opening of new accounts, and 7 percent involved the criminal taking out a loan. Interestingly, 14 percent of these crimes related to the fraudster using the victim’s identity to get a job, receive medical services or avoid apprehension for another criminal activity.

With identity theft on the rise, consumers should take every precaution possible to make sure it doesn’t happen to them, such as keeping all files that contain sensitive information safe and secure, and never sharing any such personal or financial data with anyone unless they are trusted implicitly.

Image: Tax Credits, via Flickr

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