Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Identity theft? Culprit is likely a friend or relative

According to a study recently reported in the Arizona Republic, a significant portion of "identity" fraud is committed by people known to the victims and most fraudsters who are not known to the victim get their information using low-tech means:

Identity theft? Culprit is likely a friend or relative:

"...According to one recent study, by Javelin Strategy & Research, a consulting firm in Pleasanton, Calif., in 26 percent of all cases the fraud victims knew the person who had misused their personal information. (Typically it was a family member, friend or neighbor, or in-home employee.) In addition, as much as 50 percent of debit-card fraud occurs when a card is snagged by a family member or friend who knows the card's personal-identification number, according to a recent report from TowerGroup, a unit of MasterCard International Inc.

The term 'identity theft' is often used loosely to describe a wide array of crimes. But true identity theft occurs when someone uses stolen information to create a new form of identity, such as opening a new credit-card account under the victim's name. That differs significantly from other kinds of bank fraud, such as when a criminal uses a stolen ATM card to get cash out of a teller machine.

Whether it's full-blown ID theft or small-scale fraud, even in cases where the criminal is a stranger, it's almost never a case of sophisticated computer hacking. Although 75 percent of all households use the Internet and 65 percent of those do some online banking, 'most criminals obtain personal information through traditional rather than electronic channels,' according to the Javelin study. Some 29 percent of victims surveyed said their personal information was obtained through a lost or stolen wallet, checkbook or credit card.

According to the study, the bulk of the rest were attributed to friends and relatives, corrupt employees, stolen mail, Dumpster-diving, and computer spyware. Computer viruses or hackers accounted for only 2.2 percent of incidents. While there has been a significant increase in the number of electronic attempts at identity theft, "the ones that are working are the traditional ones," said James Van Dyke, Javelin's president...."

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