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More Than Half of Identity Theft is Non-Digital

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
May 14, 2018

While identity theft is most often associated with cyber intrusions, a recent report has found that the majority of data thefts actually come from the analog world, according to CNBC. The study, from University of Texas at Austin's Center for Identity, found that, of the 5,000 identity theft and fraud cases occurring from 2000 through 2016, 46 percent were digital in nature while 56 percent were not. So outside of being hacked, how else are people getting their data stolen? Some of it comes from stolen physical goods that contain personally identifying information, such as phones, laptops, wallets or even mail. Some of it comes from what's called "insider theft," meaning that information is stolen by people the victim knows, like family members, co-workers and ostensible "friends." 

An episode of popular radio show This American Life illustrates a real-life example of how this sort of theft might look. The episode talks about a woman whose identity was stolen repeatedly, despite moving banks multiple times. While her boyfriend would help her with finances during these troubling times, eventually she found out that he was actually the one who had been stealing her identity for years; when he'd gamely come forward with financial assistance when her money was stolen, it was actually with the money he'd stolen from her in numerous ways, the identity theft being but one vector. 

A director at the Center for Identity noted that most people likely wouldn't leave $1,000 in cash on the table when company's over, even if they trusted the people there. With this in mind, why leave materials that could aid in identity theft out in the open for people to take? CNBC advised its readers to keep sensitive mail and other documents out of plain sight at home, perhaps through investing in a lockable filing cabinet; to avoid using paper records; to shred sensitive documents before throwing them in the trash; to ensure their mail is secure, perhaps through getting a lock; to be careful about whom they trust; and to avoid keeping vital documents in one's purse, wallet or car.

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