Although, identity theft has become a global issue, there are very few studies that put the trends together from a global perspective.

Since identity theft can travel thousands of miles with the click of a mouse (or with the use of automated software), we could learn a lot by studying the problem as a whole.

McAfee has just released a white paper, which does this.

From the McAfee site:

According to the report, the number of keyloggers – malicious software code that tracks typing activity to capture passwords and other private information – has increased by 250 percent between January 2004 and May 2006. Additional findings show that the number of phishing alerts tracked by the Anti-Phishing Working Group has multiplied 100-fold over the same period of time. The report also provides practical guidelines that minimize the risk of identity theft to help readers protect themselves and prevent this increasingly common crime.

The study shows that identity theft exacts a high toll on national economies around the world. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the annual cost for consumers and businesses in the United States alone reaches $50 billion annually(1). In the United Kingdom, the Home Office has calculated the cost of identity theft to the British economy at $3.2 billion during the last three years(2) and some estimates from the Australian Centre for Policing Research place the cost of identity theft at $3 billion each year(3).

The conclusion of their report is:

We must first admit that every one of us—individuals and businesses—are threatened and potentially vulnerable to identity theft; this is not something that happens only to others. Despite the seriousness of current incidents and the
increasing threat, some basic principles allow us to significantly reduce the risk. Awareness is the best defense. Through awareness, we develop our senses to spot identity theft and to protect personal and corporate information, while maintaining the benefits of information technology.

Not only covered in the report are technological means in which identities are stolen and used, but it also covers known cases, such as “dumpster diving, mail theft and employee theft.”

It also shows how victims are denied credit, identification and even labeled as “terrorists” because their identity had been assumed, and used for “illicit” purposes.

The paper is substantiated by referencing a lot of (worldwide) government and private studies.

The paper also has a lot of relevant tips for both individuals and organizations on how to avoid becoming a victim.

All in all – a very “interesting” read.

McAfee White Paper, here.

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