Wed, Feb 11th 2009 9:44pm
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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