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March 24, 2009, Volume 55, No. 26

One Step Ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

ID Theft: Are You Worrying About the Right Things?

In a recent survey of nearly 5,000 adults in the United States, 482 individuals reported that they had been victims of identity theft in 2008. Lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks and credit/debit cards were the most common sources of personal information in these identity thefts, accounting for nearly 43 percent of incidents where the source of information was known. (In a similar survey conducted one year earlier, these sources had accounted for a significantly lower 33 percent of incidents.) Online identity theft methods (phishing, hacking and malware) accounted for 11 percent of the 2008 incidents; only 3 percent were attributed to stolen paper mail (perhaps because of increasing use of electronic statements and bills, as mentioned in the survey report). 

These findings provide an important reminder that online security measures—such as firewalls and updated anti-virus software—are crucial, but not sufficient to protect all of the personal information that can be used by identity thieves. As the survey report notes, “practicing safe habits in your day-to-day activities can go far in reducing your risk of becoming a victim.” For example, covering the keypad as you enter your PIN at an ATM, keeping sensitive documents in a locked drawer, and shredding unneeded documents that contain personal information are all simple ways to reduce your risk of identity theft.

A brief overview of the survey, including key findings and safety tips, can be viewed at www.javelinstrategy.com/category/press-releases/

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For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.

Almanac - March 24, 2009, Volume 55, No. 26