ID theft remains a top concern for consumers

BY CARMEN CALDWELL
2/18/2007 – Special to The Miami Herald
This weekly column is supplied by Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade and is intended to provide information that will help readers in their efforts to be safe.

I recently received some very scary information that shows we are still not taking identity theft seriously enough. The information came from the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), and I felt that I needed to share it with you. As long as we continue to believe that ”it’s not going to happen to me,” the crooks will continue to make people’s lives miserable.

According to the NCPC, identity theft remains a top concern for consumers although they are not taking immediate steps to prevent it.

According to an NCPC survey conducted by Harris Interactive, identity theft and credit card fraud top the list of crimes about which adult Americans are extremely concerned.

The finding further supports the latest information from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data report in which identity theft topped the list of consumer complaints for the seventh year in a row.

Yet, the NCPC said, people with high levels of concern about identity theft are no more knowledgeable about the issue than those who are less concerned — 57 percent versus 56 percent of other respondents — about how to prevent it. Identity theft outranks concern over crimes such as credit card fraud, burglary, and robbery, according to the NCPC.

The survey of 813 adults which Harris Interactive conducted last November, also found the following:

• Two-thirds of women (66 percent) see identity theft as a major problem, compared with 47 percent of men.

• People who feel increasingly vulnerable on the Internet are more likely than their counterparts to see identity theft as a major problem (80 percent of those who feel more vulnerable than a year ago, compared with about half of those who are less afraid or feel unchanged about Internet vulnerability).

• Fourteen percent of respondents report that they have been victims of identity theft — or more than 40 million adult Americans.

• Twenty-four percent of respondents knew someone who has been an ID theft victim.

• Those who know ID theft victims are significantly more likely to be most concerned about that crime: 31 percent versus 24 percent of all other adults.

• People could name a variety of preventive actions that might prove helpful: shredding (destroying) sensitive personal documents, avoiding use of Social Security numbers, taking care not to give out personal information on the phone (including credit card and Social Security numbers), avoiding giving out computer or other passwords, and refusing to give out personal information online.

• The African American community appears to be disproportionately victimized by ID theft: 31 percent report being victims, compared with 14 percent of the population overall, and 45 percent know family members or close friends who are victims, compared with 25 percent of the general population.

I hope this information has motivated you to take better precaution with your personal information.

Carmen Caldwell is the executive director of the Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to her, cmcwatch@aol.com, or call her, 305-470-1670. For more information on Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade, log on to www.citizenscrimewatch.com. If you want to send a letter to the editor to be considered for publication, e-mail it to mhamaludin@

MiamiHerald.com, fax it to 305-819-8286 or mail it to The Miami Herald Neighbors, 900 W. 49th St., Suite 500, Hialeah, FL 33012.

florida shredding