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Identity Fraud More Common Offline, Study Finds

Even in the digital age, some criminals are sticking to the less technical, more traditional ways of stealing information. In a new study, insurance company Travelers revealed that despite the increase of e-commerce, offline methods remain the top known causes of identity fraud.

According to Travelers, 73 percent of all the cases of identity fraud it examined from 2011 could be traced to burglary, stolen wallets and pilfered identifications. Fifteen percent involved a data breach or cyber-attack, while 10 percent involved forgery. Two percent involved change of address fraud.

The study follows the release of findings from ID Analytics' ID: A Labs that there were more than 10,000 identity fraud rings active in the U.S. – many of which are comprised of families and friends as opposed to organized crime. As part of that study, researchers analyzed more than 1 billion applications for wireless services, bank cards, and retail credit cards, and discovered that Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas are hotbeds for fraudulent activities.

“When everyday essentials, like wallets or drivers licenses, are stolen or go missing, identity fraud often follows,” said Joe Reynolds, Identity Fraud Product Manager at Travelers, in a statement. “Credit cards, drivers' licenses and other sources of personal information enable criminals to commit a fraud or crime, all in your name.”

Given that identity thieves often go undetected, only 10 percent of the survey respondents could identify whom the perpetrator was who committed the crime against them.

“People are not always aware that someone is illegally using their identity until suspicious activity appears on their monthly financial statement,” said Reynolds. “It is critical that consumers closely review these monthly documents, and remember to immediately call the bank if they suspect fraudulent activity.”

According to Travelers, consumers can take preventative measures to protect themselves from identity fraud, and the company recommends people leave unnecessary credit cards and critical documents in a discrete location in their home and shred any old bills or financial statements.

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