Northwest Residents Dismiss Dumpster Diving, Mail Theft While Fearing Identity Theft

October 21, 2014

In this increasingly digital world, many Northwest residents worry about the threat of online identity theft, but according to the latest poll results from Seattle-based PEMCO Insurance, about three-quarters say they continue to bank online anyway. And while the poll shows that fewer are concerned with old-fashioned crooks like mail thieves and trash scavengers, experts warn they remain dangerous.

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, a majority of Northwest residents (87 percent) share at least somewhat of a concern that their identity could be stolen, but 82 percent of the Washington and Oregon residents polled say they use online banking services anyway. Meanwhile, most (82 percent) say digital data breaches pose the biggest identity-theft threat – either from inherent online risks or because a retailer fails to protect sensitive information.

Despite those concerns, about half of respondents (47 percent) say that online banking is more secure for paying bills than paying them through U.S. Mail, though nearly one-third (31 percent) admit they’re unsure which option is safer. About one-quarter (22 percent) of Washington and Oregon residents prefer snail mail for paying bills, according to the poll.

“Many people share concern about all forms of identity theft, and the poll suggests that some view online and offline security threats differently based on their age,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson.

PEMCO’s poll shows 22 percent of people age 35 or older think it’s more secure to pay bills through U.S. Mail, compared to 17 percent of those under 35.

In Washington, the distinction between generations is greater – 59 percent of those under 35 say it’s more secure to pay their bills online, while 47 percent of those 35 and older say the same.

According to the poll, just 5 percent of all respondents worry that a thief could steal sensitive information from their mailbox, and even fewer fear crooks pilfering their trash or recycling.

“That may explain why our poll shows fewer people than before say they use a home shredder,” Osterberg noted.

About two-thirds of Washington residents (69 percent) report owning and using a shredder today, compared to 79 percent in 2008. Similarly, 68 percent of Oregon respondents currently own a shredder, compared with 77 percent of Portland residents in 2011.

While the poll suggests only modest concern for low-tech theft, it’s in consumers’ best interest to remain vigilant of all forms of identity theft according to IDT911, PEMCO’s partner for identity fraud services.

Matt Cullina, CEO for IDT911, said acts of identity theft are often opportunistic.

“We see our fair share of low-tech, wallet-snatching crimes,” Cullina said. “A wallet can contain all of the perfect pieces to steal a person’s entire identity – driver’s license, insurance cards, credit and debit cards, maybe even a Social Security card or birth certificate.”

While low-tech theft remains an easy target for some crooks, IDT911 warns that online crimes will increase as tech-savvy thieves find new ways to exploit technology’s weaknesses. Consumers should remain aware of phishing emails and other tactics – like phone or text solicitations – looking to dupe them. Not to mention old-fashioned pickpockets.

“Identity theft doesn’t just pertain to financial fraud. Tax, medical, and even job identity theft are real and can wreak havoc on your finances, medical records or career,” Cullina added. “Consumers should also be on-guard when giving personal information to small businesses and other entities, like universities and medical offices, because breaches at low-profile locations often don’t make national headlines, but are equally as dangerous.”

Source: PEMCO

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