Report: Combined Consumer Education and Increased Security Measures Equal Reduced Identity Fraud

While surfing the ‘net, I came across a report about the reduction of identity theft and identity fraud. Obviously, it caught my attention. Following, in part, is that report which was produced by Javelin Strategy & Research, and co-sponsored by CheckFree Corporation, Visa Card, and Wells Fargo & Co.While identity theft remains a multi-billion-dollar problem for businesses, organizations, and individuals, incidents of the fraud dropped significantly last year, according to a report.Identity fraud occurring in the United States declined in 2006 by 12 percent over the year before, from $55.7 billion to $49.3 billion, according to the third-annual survey by Javelin Strategy & Research. The survey, which involved 5,000 telephone interviews, estimated the number of victims dropped for the fourth consecutive year by about 500,000 to 8.4 million persons.Researchers attributed the decline to better consumer education and awareness and increased use of online banking and financial sites that allow closer monitoring of accounts. “Businesses are doing a lot more, law enforcement is doing more, and so are consumers,” said James Van Dyke, president of Javelin, a research company in Pleasanton, Calif., specializing in financial services and payments.Tena Friery, research director at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer organization in San Diego, said she was surprised by the size of the decline but said there is much greater public awareness. “We still have a long way to go,” she said.According to the report, there was a significant reduction in fraudulent new-account openings, traditionally one of the most common kinds of fraud. It occurs when a criminal uses a victim’s personal data to open a new account.The survey also found that it takes on average less time and expense to resolve a fraud case than last year. When fraudulent accounts are opened, the average fraud amounts dropped from more than $10,000 in 2005 to $7,260 in 2006. Resolution times dropped from an average of 25 hours in 2005 to five hours in 2006.Van Dyke said one reason the numbers are down is that businesses are “screening account applicants much more closely.”
Individuals and consumer groups have long argued that extra screening was needed because conflicting application information, such as two addresses, could indicate identity fraud.One group that isn’t doing better, according to the report, is 18- to 24-year olds. This age group was more likely to become a victim of identity theft than other age groups. (See sure to read my related article, Your Child’s First Year at College: Prime Target for Identity Theft?).The report references offline criminal activities; however, I do believe that incidents of identity theft have remained unchanged online. One example is stated above, with cybercriminals targeting recent high school graduates and college freshmen. Unfortunate victims, these graduates and college freshmen provide extremely lucrative opportunities for the cybercriminals to obtain their personal information. Even before they start their first careers, these graduates and college students will, most likely, be crippled by identity theft.To protect yourself, you need an internet security team of experts making sure that you, your family, and your business computer are always safe and secure. The best protection you can have in today’s rapidly changing world of cyber-attacks is to have expert support for all your Internet security needs that will provide technical support without any hassles and without charging you extra fees. It will become even more critical than it is today as time goes on. You need to find your own personal team of experts to rely on. If you ever have a security problem, you will want to have a trusted expert you can call for professional help, without any hassles and extra costs!Because cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more sophisticated in their operations, they are real threats to your personal security and privacy. Your money, your computer, your family, and your business are all at risk.These cybercriminals leave you with three choices:1. Do nothing and hope their attacks, risks, and threats don’t occur on your computer.2. Do research and get training to protect yourself, your family, and your business.3. Get professional help to lockdown your system from all their attacks, risks, and threats.Remember: When you say “No!” to hackers and spyware, everyone wins! When you don’t, we all lose!© MMVII, Etienne A. Gibbs, MSW, The Internet Safety Advocate and Educator