Not All Identity Theft is Cyberspaced; Incidents More Likely to be 'Paper-Based'

In Light of New Research, BBB Urges Identity Safety Precautions in the

'Real World' as Well as the 'Virtual' World

Feb 07, 2005, 00:00 ET from Council of Better Business Bureau

    ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The Better Business Bureau is
 joining with other organizations to highlight identity safety during this
 year's National Consumer Protection Week (Feb. 6-12).
     "Identity theft continues to be a very serious threat.  One in 23 adults
 will be victimized this year, with a total loss exceeding $50 billion.  To
 prevent the misuse of our personal information, survey research shows we
 should be as safety-conscious in our home and office, as we are on the
 Internet," said Ken Hunter, President of the Council of Better Business
 Bureaus, Inc.
     The 2005 Identity Fraud Survey report, recently released by the BBB and
 Javelin Strategy & Research, indicates that common fears about online identity
 fraud may be out of proportion to the real risks that confront consumers.
 The surprising results indicate that people should pay greater attention to
 the more traditional paper-based world when taking steps to protect their
 personal identity.
     The survey of 4,000 individuals found:
     * The most frequently reported sources of information used to commit
       identity fraud are not computer-based.  A lost or stolen wallet,
       checkbook or credit card was cited by almost 29% of the victims who knew
       how their personal information had been obtained; 11% cited
       friends/acquaintances and relatives; another, 8% blamed corrupt
       employees with access to personal information.  Computer crimes
       accounted for 11.6% of the perpetrator sources known by victims.
     * Among cases where the perpetrator's identity is known, half of all
       misuse of personal information was committed by a friend, family member,
       relative, neighbor or in-home employee.
     "Too often, we think of our home or office as a comfort zone, where we can
 let down our guard.  Unfortunately, that is not the case with our personal
 information," said Mr. Hunter.
     First, Learn How to Prevent Unauthorized Access to your Personal Info
     The BBB advises consumers to begin this week by reviewing how they carry,
 store, send and destroy documents that contain personally identifiable
 information.  This includes credit cards, ATM and debit cards, Social Security
 card, statements from financial service companies, billing statements,
 incoming and outgoing mail and other documents.
     "A good way to begin your identity safety inventory is to take a quiz
 specifically designed by Javelin Survey & Research and the BBB, based on the
 identity safety 'best practice,'" suggested Mr. Hunter.  "The Spanish version
 of the quiz, which is posted online at, permits
 people to assess their identity safety from two perspectives.  First, are the
 steps I am currently taking to fight identity fraud really enough?  Secondly,
 how can I protect myself from having personal financial information taken
 without my consent?"
     The quiz takes only minutes to complete.  Once finished, the quiz-taker
 receives a score, with a list of specific suggestions that will help that
 person improve their identity safety.  The higher the score, the more a person
 needs to do to "lock down" their personal security or the security of their
 small business.
     Second, Be Proactive in Detecting Unauthorized Activity
     After you've taken the necessary steps to protect access to your personal
 information, the BBB suggests you take preventive measures that will help you
 detect unauthorized activity on your accounts, should that occur.
     "Our survey research found that a majority of identity fraud crimes are
 self-detected.  And, the losses are lower if the victim was using electronic
 review of their transactions, statement and credit reports to detect
 unauthorized access," said Mr. Hunter.
     In addition to monitoring account balances and activity at least weekly,
 the BBB recommends that consumers monitor their credit reports at least
 annually; use e-mail account "alerts" to monitor transfers, payments, low
 balances and withdrawals; and, consider moving to online statements and bill-
     "Of course, if you do bank online, take the necessary safety precautions.
 Place a password protection on your computer and your sensitive files (such as
 your online banking file); ensure that your computer has a firewall to protect
 from Internet attacks; install good anti-virus/anti-spyware software on your
 computer and regularly update it; and, keep the security features of your
 computer's operating system current," the BBB president advised.
     For More Info
     To read more about the findings from the 2005 Identity Fraud Survey
 Report, which was sponsored by CheckFree, Visa and Wells Fargo & Company, go
 to   For more information about
 identity theft in Spanish from the Better Business Bureau, go to

SOURCE Council of Better Business Bureau