How Does Identity Theft Happen?

2008 Identity Fraud Survey Report Provides Answers

Javelin Strategy & Research, the leading provider of nationally representative quantitative research focused exclusively 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.

The report includes this response to the common question, “How Does Identity Theft Happen?”

“Although many people believe that most identity theft only occurs over the Internet and that hackers are responsible for all identity theft and fraud, Javelin’s research has found that many thefts occur in the physical world. In fact, among the 35% of victims who knew how their data was taken, lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks or credit cards accounted for more than twice as many instances of theft than all online channels put together.”

Your personal or financial information can be stolen in a number of different ways:

  • Through a lost or stolen wallet, checkbook or credit card
  • Through information stolen in your own home, including friends, relatives, and in-home employees
  • Through mail theft from an unlocked mailbox

(emphasis added)

Through eavesdropping by a criminal while you conduct a public transaction (“shoulder surfing”)

  • By someone who e-mails, calls, or text messages you, pretending to be a bank or other trusted source to trick you into divulging private information
  • By hacking, viruses, and spyware on a computer
  • By a data breach at any agency that maintains access to your private information
  • By retrieving your unshredded information from a trash can, a method known as “dumpster diving”
  • Through new and different methods that criminals are continually developing

Because theft can be committed through so many methods, consumers are advised to put into practice a variety of the most effective measures to help protect themselves.”

This report elucidates a common misconception that most identity theft occurs online, and emphasizes that protection of your private and sensitive information in the physical world is an essential element of a comprehensive approach to identity theft prevention. A secure locking mailbox and a cross-cut paper shredder are two fundamental tools in protecting your identity.


  1. Walter on April 23, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    It was interesting. You seem very knowledgeable in ypour field.

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