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New Studies Highlight Different ID Thefts
Here's a look at some new studies that can help you better understand the common causes of identity theft situations in which a crook uses someone else's personal information to commit fraud and how the crime is committed.
The Federal Trade Commission's latest annual report on consumer complaints shows that ID theft topped the list for the fifth year in a row, accounting for 39 percent of all consumer fraud complaints filed with the FTC during 2004. Credit card fraud was the most common form of reported identity theft (28 percent of the total), followed by phone or utilities fraud (19 percent) and bank fraud (18 percent). See the FTC's announcement at www.ftc.gov/opa/2005/02/top102005.htm.
A study released by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) and Javelin Strategy & Research shows that ID theft is more likely to occur as the result of a lost or stolen wallet or checkbook, not because of Internet-related fraud. The study also says that friends, family members, neighbors or in-home employees make up half of all identity thieves. To read the report and recommendations for consumers, go to www.bbb.org.
And the FDIC released a study on "account hijacking," which is the unauthorized access and misuse of existing account information, primarily through online "phishing" scams (fraudulent e-mails asking recipients to verify or provide confidential financial information).
The FDIC report offers some "best practices" that financial institutions and their regulators can consider using to help protect consumers from online fraud. Consumers also may wish to read the study to learn why phishing scams should be taken seriously. While online banking offers many benefits to consumers and there are consumer protections, people still need to be on guard against ID theft in any form.
"Most ID theft may be committed the old-fashioned way, via paper, but electronic ID theft is the fastest-growing form because of the growth in online banking," said Michael Jackson, Associate Director of the FDIC's Division of Supervision and Consumer Protection. He added that electronic ID theft "is perhaps the toughest for a consumer to detect." Why? "You're likely to know pretty quickly if you've lost your wallet," Jackson explained, "but people often go weeks or months before realizing that their personal information has been stolen online."
To read the FDIC report, go to www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/idtheftstudy/index.html. To learn more about phishing scams, see www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/alerts/index.html.
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