Low-Tech Methods Get The Blame For Most Identity Fraud

from the methodology dept

A new research study says that identity fraud rose 22 percent in 2008 from the previous year, blaming lost or stolen wallets, not data breaches, for the majority of incidents. It’s important to note the terminology here: the group that conducted the research considers identity fraud — when stolen information is actually used for financial gain — as distinct from identity theft, which is simply when identity information is stolen. It stands to reason, then, that the occurrence of identity theft is actually far higher. Also, the numbers on how criminals obtained the information may be slightly skewed. Respondents to the survey were asked if they knew how their information was stolen, and only 35% responded that they did. Of that 35%, only 22% said it was stolen online or via a data leak. Again, it stands to reason that people whose information was stolen because their wallet was lifted or lost, or via some other noticeable method, would be more aware of it than if, say, a retailer gave up their credit card number or other info. Also, is it helpful to consider a pickpocket using a stolen credit card to be analogous to a massive data breach? While the end result might be similar for affected consumers, the method of the crime, as well as the reasons why it was allowed to happen, are very, very different. To equate pickpocketing to data breaches runs the risk of underemphasizing the risk that slack corporate or governmental security poses to large numbers of people. Gee, that doesn’t sound familiar, does it?

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Comments on “Low-Tech Methods Get The Blame For Most Identity Fraud”

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Mr Paul says:

Identity Theft

Identity Theft is not “simply when identity information is stolen”. Wikipedia has a good article on identity theft that goes into great detail. Common use amongst those in the retailing and credit card industry is to use the term “credit card fraud” or something similar for when cards or financial accounts are used fraudulently (“Victim Established Accounts Accessed” in the wikipedia article) and to use “identity theft” for the other forms. That is because it is much easier to identify and rectify when existing accounts are accessed and abused versus when new accounts are created, or someone else is living a life under a stolen identity.

My reading of the original article is that they probably used the term “identity fraud” to mean victim’s accounts were accessed, since the methods referenced wouldn’t give the type of information needed for other types of identity theft.

It is important for the public to understand the differences, since the risk from having your accounts accessed is far less than the risks from other types of identity theft.

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