Two-thirds of consumers who have not been the victims of identity theft think it could never happen to them, says a poll taken by Experian and the Gallup Organization.
The poll surveyed more than 1,000 adults in July on level of debt, monthly payment burden, credit rating and debt extension capability. It found that 18 percent of consumers have experienced some sort of ID theft with persons under 30 experiencing the most the -- about 25 percent. Just 11 percent of consumers over 65 had experienced theft, which may indicate that older people take the threat of ID theft very seriously.
Few consumers take proper steps to protect themselves from identity theft, but 62 percent said they worried their personal information could be stolen online.
Security specialist Ron Crawford, president and CEO of InSideTheBox.Com, said the Experian-Gallup poll tracks well with what he is seeing in the marketplace. “Younger people often have lax security habits both physically and online,” said Crawford “”On the physical side, they often don’t shred their credit card statements. Improper disposal in trash and garbage is still the biggest identity theft problem.”
Crawford said one of the biggest threats is represented by discarded computers that are increasingly sold on the Internet. “There’s a misconception that if you reformat your hard drive, everything will be wiped clean,” he said. “But the only thing it wipes is the file allocation file.”
Crawford noted that freeware and shareware sites offer different kinds of software that will recover information on reformatted drives. Discarded computers are a great opportunity for hackers bent on using other people’s identity for illicit ends.
The Experian-Gallup poll also found regional differences in the way consumers perceive and protect their identities. People residing in the West, for instance, had experienced a 26 percent rate of ID theft while just 12 percent in the Midwest and 15 percent in the South had been victimized. About 20 percent of consumers in the East had suffered Identity theft, the poll found.