Do We Overemphasize the Threat of Online Identity Theft?

Much is made in the media of the threat of falling victim to identity theft when shopping online or using the Internet in general. While the possibility of becoming a victim of fraud online is very real, researchers are indicating that the Internet is still not the primary place where people are likely to have their identities stolen.

Andrea Sinisi, vice president of marketing at Bensinger DuPont & Associates, said research by her firm indicates online methods account for only 11 percent of identity theft.

“That’s really what’s hyped in the media: the fact that transactions are being done online, you need to look at what Web sites [Internet users shop on], make sure they’re reputable [and] make sure they’re protected; but still, a number of these things are occurring just from someone getting your information [such as a] a credit card number from a personal document,” Sinisi said.

Bensinger DuPont & Associates’ research has found that stolen wallets and physical documents account for 43 percent of all identify theft. “The low-tech methods for stealing information are still the most popular,” she said.

Online identity theft may be focused on in the media and by people in general due to the explosive growth of the Internet itself, which may make the problem look larger than it actually is. “Because so much more commerce is going online, when you see a rise [in online identity theft], it looks like a bigger percentage than it may truly be,” Sinisi said. “It…


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