Data breaches, phishing scams and computer viruses are serious problems that can jeopardize a consumer's personal information, but a new report reveals that the majority of criminals still rely on old-fashioned thievery to commit identity theft. Citing the results of a study conducted by Travelers, the Insurance Journal reports that 76 percent of customers who filed claims for identity theft named burglary or stolen wallets, purses and identification as the cause.
According to the study, 74 percent of criminals who stole personal information opened up new accounts in their victim's name or made purchases and cash withdrawals using existing accounts.
Travelers compiled a list of their identity theft-related claims and found that low-tech theft is still the preferred method of most criminals, regardless of whether they are looking for cash or plan to use credit information and the victim's identification for fraudulent purposes. According to the results, 76 percent of identity theft cases were the result of a burglary, 9 percent of cases were caused by an online data breach, 9 percent were the result of forgery and 6 percent occurred due to a change of address or postal fraud.
"This study suggests once again that more traditional means of identity fraud are prevalent today and continue to pose significant risks to consumers," Joe Reynolds, Travelers' Identity Fraud Product Manager told the Insurance Journal. "Knowing this, it is critical that consumers take steps to protect themselves and their property."
Consumers can protect themselves from theft by keeping their purse or wallet close to them and never leaving it unattended. It's easy when a person is in a crowded shopping center or grocery store to become distracted for a few seconds and leave their purse or wallet in a grocery cart, but this gives thieves a prime opportunity to steal it. Additionally, consumers should refrain from carrying more credit cards, checks and cash than they need. Leaving home with more than one or two credit cards can create more damage in the event of a theft. Remaining aware of one's surroundings will significantly lower the risk of becoming a victim.