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ID Theft – Don’t Blame The Internet

Identity theft – also known as ID theft, identity fraud and ID fraud – refers to a type of fraud where a criminal adopts somebody else’s identity in order to profit illegally. It is one of the fastest growing forms of fraud in a lof of developed countries.

In the UK identity theft is growing at the rate of 500% each year and, according to Which Magazine, 25% of the populace have either suffered from identity theft or know somebody who has.

In the USA, a report issued by the Better Business Bureau revealed that, in 2004, over 9 million Americans became victims of identity fraud with the total sum stolen being $52.6 billion.

With numbers like this, it’s no wonder that there is a certain degree of concern about computer and internet security. After all, the internet is primarily a mechanism for transferring information and the possibility that some of the information transferred may be more than intended is never far from many internet user’s minds.

It’s easy to imagine criminal masterminds around the globe using the internet to break into PCs in order to gain access to data with which to carry out their devilishly cunning plots. However, as shown in the report, the facts of the matter are a little more basic and the internet, far from making you more prone to ID fraud, can help to significantly reduce your losses if you do fall victim this form of illegal activity.

Based upon the Better Business Bureau’s research the main methods by which criminals gain access to information used for identity theft fraud are as listed below:

  • Emails sent by criminals posing as legitimate business. 1.7%
  • Obtained some other way. 7.4%
  • Information stolen from garbage. 2.6%
  • Computer viruses and/or hackers. 2.2%
  • Stolen paper mail or fraudulent change of address. 8.0%
  • Accessed by friend, acquaintance or relative. 11.4%
  • Accessed as part of a transaction. 12.9%*
  • Don\’t know, refused, no answer. 11.1%
  • Lost or stolen wallet, chequebook or credit card. 28.8%
  • Information accessed by corrupt employee. 8.7%
  • Computer spyware. 5.2%

* 12.9% due to transactions – 10.4% offline transactions, 2.5% online transactions.

In total, when the instances where information was accessed during transactions are subdivided into online and offline transactions, only 11.6% of the information used to carry out ID theft fraud was obtained from computers.

Of this more than half was obtained by hugely reduced by installing the appropriate protection software and ensuring that this is kept up to date.

Not only did the survey reveal that the internet was not a major source of fraudulently obtained personal found that those fraud victims who checked their financial records using the internet, ATM machines or other digital methods suffered monetary losses which were, on average, eight times lower when compared to those of victims who used conventional paper statements to monitor their records. This very significant reduction was put down to the quick discovery of the crime due to “real time” monitoring.

Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t exercise great care when using the worldwide web or take care to protect the personal information which you might have stored on your PC. However, as long as you install suitable virus, firewall and spyware protection, and keep this continually updated, the internetavoiding identity theft.

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