Offline ID crimes still more severe

R.A. Hettinga rah at
Thu Jan 27 11:32:16 PST 2005



 Offline ID crimes still more severe

 Story last modified Wed Jan 26 14:45:00 PST 2005

Though identity theft using the Internet seems to get all the attention,
most of the financial loss linked to fraud is still from offline crime, a
new study shows.

Losses related to an average case of Internet-initiated fraud were $551,
compared to $4,543 lost from fraud tracked back to paper statements,
according to the 2005 Identity Fraud Survey conducted by the Better
Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy & Research.

The survey, which follows an earlier study carried out by the Federal Trade
Commission in 2003, indicated that Internet-related crimes are actually
less severe, less costly and not as widespread as previously thought.

 The amount of money lost to identity fraud in 2004 was $52.6
billion--about the same as in 2003. And the number of victims dropped to
9.3 million in 2004 from 10.1 million the year before.

"This new research contradicts some common assumptions about identity-theft
fraud and points to new paths of prevention. There are several steps
consumers can take to improve their identity safety and protect themselves
against this type of fraud," Ken Hunter, CEO of the Council of Better
Business Bureaus, said in a statement.

 The survey said computer crimes accounted for only 11.6 percent of
identity fraud in 2004 in which the cause was known. Half of those crimes
stemmed from spyware, software that surreptiously tracks users online or
causes ads to pop up when the consumer is online.

"Our numbers show that fears about online identity fraud may be out of
proportion to the relative risk, causing consumers to ignore the most
glaring issues," James Van Dyke, Javelin's founder, said in a statement.
"Indeed, most instances of identity fraud occur through traditional
channels and are paper-based, not Internet-based."

Users can protect their financial data by using updated software that
protects against spyware and viruses and by and not responding to
suspicious e-mail ploys that request personal data. By managing their
financial accounts through a password-authenticated Web site, the report
added, "consumers can reduce access to personal information on paper bills
and statements that may be used to commit identity theft and fraud."

Also revealing was the finding that half of those who committed the online
crimes are closely related to the victim as a friend, family member or

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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