January 28, 2005, 12:00 AM

A new report shows the Internet is safer from fraud than the offline world

Of the top 10 ways in which criminals obtained personal information for fraudulent purposes, the top 5 were offline methods as were six of the top 10, according to the new 2005 Identity Fraud Survey Report.


The Internet is safer from identity thieves than the offline world, says the new 2005 Identity Fraud Survey Report from the Better Business Bureau and Javelin Strategy & Research.

Of 4,000 consumers surveyed for the report, 509 had been victims of identity fraud, James Van Dyke, Javelin’s founder and principal analyst, tells InternetRetailer.com. 54% of them knew how the thief had gotten access to their personal information. The top five methods were all offline:

• Lost or stolen checkbook or wallet

• Friends, acquaintances or relative obtained access to personal information
• Corrupt employee misused personal information
• Offline transaction resulted in information falling into the wrong hands
• Stolen mail or fraudulent change of address resulted in fraud.
Only then does the Internet come into play, with the 6th most common method being spyware.

Seventh is information taken from the garbage, then information taken from an online transaction, a hacker or virus and e-mail sent by criminal posing as legitimate business.

“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,” Van Dyke says. “Indeed, most instances of identity fraud occur through traditional channels and are paper-based, not Internet-based.”

The report is an update of the Federal Trade Commission’s 2003 Identity Theft Survey Report and Javelin’s 2003 Identity Theft Report.

The study concludes that those who access accounts online can provide earlier detection of crime than those who rely only upon mailed monthly paper statements. “By managing their financial activities online, consumers can reduce access to personal information on paper bills and statements that may be used to commit identity theft and fraud,” the report says. “Victims of identity theft who detected the crime by monitoring accounts online experienced financial losses that were less than one-eighth of those who detected the crime via paper statements. (Average $551 in losses when detected online vs. average $4,543 when detected from paper statements).”

The research project was sponsored by CheckFree, Visa and Wells Fargo & Co.


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