Identity Theft: Shocking Statistics

Think identity theft is the work of faceless cyber-crooks from foreign countries?  Think again.  Almost half of all ID theft is committed by relatives or close friends of the victim, new research shows.  

The surprising information comes from a recent poll of 4,000 consumers conducted by a group led by the Better Business Bureau.  And sadly, it makes sense that those closest to you enjoy the easiest access to your bank records, credit-card statements, and Social Security number.  

The report found that victims have had property deeds, insurance policies, beneficiary change forms, utility bills, and even their wills stolen by family members bent on ID theft.

Off-Line Risks
Another surprising finding in the survey was that despite the hubbub surrounding the risks of Internet use, last year, 72% of the theft of personal information occurred off-line.

The study found that identity thieves procured personal data online in only 12% of all ID theft cases.  Experts hasten to add that this doesn’t mean you should drop your guard when you’re Web-surfing; to the contrary, people need to be more aware of how vulnerable they are in their off-line activities, especially where credit cards and bank statements are involved.

Other study findings:

•    ID theft cost Americans $52.6 billion in 2004.
•    Half of all ID theft is committed by friends and family members.
•    The average damage from friends and family costs $15,600, while online scammers net only $2,300.

Google Yourself!
Another overlooked ID theft secret is that there may be sensitive data about you available to anybody who can use a search engine – so-called “Google hacking” is on the rise.  One recent test found sensitive data on 25 million Americans this way.

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