According to conventional wisdom, identity theft is rising, Internet users are increasingly vulnerable, and the problem, if unchecked, will put a damper on e-commerce.

But Jim Van Dyke, founder of Javelin Strategy & Research, says the typical ID-jacker still strikes the old-fashioned way.

“Most criminals are not very smart or well-equipped,” says Van Dyke. “The easiest way to get into someone’s bank account or buy something in their name is to drive up and down the street checking mailboxes or trash cans for discarded checking or credit-card info.”

Ironically, according to Van Dyke, consumers are actually safer using electronic services like online banking and online bill payment. Why? E-billing reduces paper at the source and allows users to check their accounts more frequently.

“If you’re relying on paper statements, you get them once a month by mail, so most of the data is at least six days old,” says Van Dyke. “By the time you get that statement and realize you didn’t buy $2,000 worth of watches in Brazil, there won’t be just one case of fraud, there will be dozens.”
— CHRIS TUCKER