How Do Identity Thieves Steal Information?

2008 Identity Fraud Survey Report Provides Answers

In yesterday’s post, we provided the answer to the question “How Does Identity Theft Happen?” according to Javelin Strategy & Research. The leading provider of nationally representative quantitative research on financial services topics recently released the “2008 Identity Fraud Survey Report—Consumer Version: How Consumers Can Protect Themselves.” Available online as a .pdf here, this report provides guidelines for consumers to help prevent, detect and resolve identity theft.

Today, we provide their response to the oft asked question, “How Do Identity Thieves Steal Information?”

Contrary to popular belief, in cases where victims knew how their data was stolen, online identity theft methods (phishing, hacking and spyware) only constituted 12% of fraud cases. The vast majority of known cases occur through traditional methods (79%), when a criminal can make direct contact with the consumer’s personal identification. These instances include stolen and lost wallets, checkbooks, or credit cards, “shoulder surfing” (when someone looks over your shoulder at the ATM or cash register), and stolen mail from unlocked mailboxes (emphasis added). “Friendly theft,” reported by 17% of victims, occurs when friends, family or in-home employees take your private data for their personal gain.

Although some fraud can occur despite your best efforts, practicing safe habits even in your own home, for example, can drastically reduce your individual risk. Using a secure mailbox (emphasis added), shielding your PIN number at the ATM or register, or reporting lost credit cards immediately are all considered basic precautionary measures.

Notice that Javelin Strategy & Research, the leader in financial services research, emphasizes that a secure locking mailbox is considered a “basic precautionary measure” for drastically reducing your individual risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.


  1. Brian Taylor on December 9, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    As part of our research I read your article of Dec 5 with interest.
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