NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Since the recent ChoicePoint hacking, online identity theft has people frightened, but a recent study shows that consumers are most likely to get fleeced away from their computers.
A Better Business Bureau telephone survey of 4,000 consumers found that only 11 percent of known identity theft cases occurred online, with low-tech dumpster diving and phone fraud accounting for far more thefts than the Internet, a study from online business research firm eMarketer said Tuesday.
The problem of identity theft, online and off, shows no signs of abating. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 3.2 million citizens are victims of ID theft each year; and every 10 seconds another American is victimized, the study said.
These statistics have led privacy-rights advocates to issue dire warnings about the growth of massive consumer databases, despite the fact that Internet hacking accounts for a small percentage of all thefts.
The study from eMarketer said online companies need to get the word out that online financial transactions can help cut down on identity theft.
"Although the Internet is responsible for its share of identity theft, studies have shown that use of the Web and other electronic means such as ATMs can actually help consumers remain vigilant against theft because they can monitor their accounts multiple times over the course of month," Noah Elkin, an eMarketer Analyst, wrote in the report.
"A BBB/Javelin study found that identity theft victims who discovered the crime through electronic means averaged a smaller monetary loss than those who found the theft on their paper statements. By contrast, consumers who rely on paper statements might have to wait days or even weeks, depending on the statement cycle, before learning that a theft had occurred, increasing the chance that larger sums could be stolen," Elkin added.