Northwest residents fret about identity theft, but many are slow to reduce risks

Northwest residents fret about identity theft, but many are slow to reduce risks

Northwest residents fret about identity theft, but many are slow to reduce risks

The FINANCIAL -- As consumers get ready to shop ‘til they drop this holiday season, many worry about protecting their identity from fraud, both online and offline. But the latest Northwest Poll from PEMCO Insurance suggests that consumers are taking fewer precautions to protect their sensitive information and shifting blame of identity theft away from themselves and onto others.

A new PEMCO Poll finds that a vast majority of Northwest residents (86 percent) are at least somewhat concerned about their identity being stolen, and half of Washington and Oregon residents (50 percent) think identity theft occurs because businesses aren’t keeping their credit card information safe and secure. Meanwhile, nearly a third of residents (29 percent) are concerned that online shopping could leave them vulnerable to fraud.

“While our Northwest neighbors are clearly worried about identity theft, many place the responsibility for safeguarding their personal information in the hands of others, often forgoing simple safety measures in the process,” said PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing. “It seems harder to protect personal information these days, especially online, but that’s exactly why consumers must be vigilant about potential fraud.”

Surprisingly, though some shoppers worry about the possibility of identity theft while conducting online transactions, when it comes to paying bills, twice as many Northwest residents feel it’s more secure to pay their bills online rather than through the mail (54 percent vs. 20 percent). 

In fact, a majority of Northwest residents (60 percent) feel the angst offline, too, and say they’re at least somewhat worried that the “snail mail” delivered to their home could be stolen. Interestingly, residents under age 55 are significantly more likely to say they’re very or extremely concerned about mail theft compared to their older counterparts (33 percent vs. 20 percent).To mitigate this risk, a majority of residents (56 percent) either have a locking mailbox or use a locked box located at a secure facility, such as a post office. 

However, when it comes to other means of identity protection, like shredding important documents, Northwest residents can certainly step up their efforts. According to the poll, the use and ownership of document shredders has dropped about 18 percent over the past two years. But the biggest disparity is seen in the number of older residents who own and use a shredder compared to younger residents; nearly two-thirds (70 percent) of respondents over age 55 still own and use one, while just 44 percent of those under age 35 say the same, showing generational differences.

“Identity theft comes in many forms, and as consumers move online, thieves will follow,” Wing added. “PEMCO reminds consumers to err on the side of caution and make sure all of your bases are covered, regardless of how you shop – monitor your accounts, create strong passwords and shred personal documents – especially during the hectic holiday season.”