Forget Your Firewall. Guard Your Dumpster

If you're on the Internet, you must be aware of identity theft. Hardly a day goes by without news of another version of a phishing scam designed to coax the unwary into offering up their precious personal information, never mind the more complex and insidious malware approaches to theft.  So information gathered for a study at Utica College of identity theft is a little surprising to us paranoid internauts: The Internet is not necessarily the preferred method for stealing your information.

"Analysis of the methods employed by the offenders showed that Internet and/or other technological devices were used in approximately half of the cases," the report says. "In some cases, the offenders began with a non-technological act, such as mail theft, to obtain the personal identifying information, but then used devices such as digital cameras, computers, scanners, laminators, and cell phones to produce and distribute fraudulent documents. While the use of the Internet as a criminal tool had a presence, it did not appear to be a necessity for most offenders to reach their goals."

Among the 517 cases analyzed, 102 included the use of the Internet. Nontechnological means of identity theft -- mail theft, mail rerouting, and Dumpster diving -- occurred in 106 cases.

Another unexpected finding is that in half of the identity theft cases analyzed, the crime began in a business. In 274 cases where a point of compromise could be identified, businesses accounted for 50% (137) of the breaches.

So you ratchet your firewall up, and keep your virus scanning software up to date, and you avoid clicking on any link with a .ru address; but you hand your credit card to any old person that wears an apron in a restaurant -- who wanders off with it for 5 minutes-- or you throw your credit card statements in the trash unshredded. Unlike in Hollywood, real crooks always take the easiest way to steal your stuff.

Tags:  Fire, Firewall, AR