Identity theft one of America's fastest growing crimes

A recent U.S. Federal Trade Commission Survey revealed that in the last year alone, 9.9 million were victims of identity theft – a figure much higher than originally expected.

Identity theft and identity fraud refer to all types of crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.

This data may include credit and debit cards, Social Security number, checks, receipts, floppy and compact discs and incoming our outgoing mail including bills, bank statements, pre-approved credit card offers and personal records.

To raise public awareness of this growing problem, Shred-it ( the world’s largest on-site shredding and recycling company, will be spreading the word about identity theft during the month of October with its second annual “Security Month” campaign. The campaign is aimed at informing consumers about the potential risks of disposing of important documents such as bills, credit cards and bank statements in non-secure places like garbage bags, trash cans and dumpsters.

Criminals who steal private information from trash receptacles – also known as “dumpster diving” – or other sources end up victimizing over one million people each year.

These criminals are seeking to obtain documents with your name, address and telephone number. These types of records make it easier for criminals to get control of your accounts and assume your identity.

“With the number of victims growing every year, identity theft is an issue that the public is starting to take very seriously,” said Greg Brophy, president and founder of Shred-it. “Our ‘Security Month’ campaign is designed to help educate people on ways to avoid being victimized by identity thieves. Guarding personal information, shredding sensitive documents, using a locked mailbox and refusing to disclose personal data to telephone solicitors are among the steps you can take to be proactive in preventing identity theft.”

The financial crimes division of the Secret Service estimates that in 1997 consumers lost more than $745 million due to identity theft. On average, victims spend 175-plus hours and $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses to clear their names.

Shred-it’s “Security Month” campaign is also aimed at educating businesses on the importance of protecting the confidential information of their customers and employees.

According to Shred-it, 62 percent of companies admit to having no procedure for reporting stolen company information, while 40 percent do not have a formal security system in place.

Businesses need to be concerned about identity theft to comply with increasingly stringent privacy legislation being implemented in jurisdictions across North America and to mitigate liability exposure. Proper security of information measures will also reduce opportunities for corporate espionage by competitors