News & Resources

Northwestern Americans guard identities

May 16, 2012 Walt Wojciechowski

Many Americans consult their banks and one of the three major consumer credit services to learn best practices and place alerts on their lines of credit to protect against identity theft. However, a recent study shows that a growing number of citizens are taking identity protection into their own hands, which may indicate an untapped market that credit bureaus could take advantage of. A poll released last week from PEMCO shows that most residents of the northwestern region of the United States rely on their own knowledge to protect against identity theft rather than getting help from an outside source. The survey noted individuals are taking measures such as using shredders for personal files, not carrying identification in wallets or bags and using security software. Though PEMCO results found 80 percent of the region's residents are concerned about having their personal information stolen, professional help is not being sought. ThreatMetrix recently released a list ranking 150 American cities in terms of the risk they pose for online fraud. While no northwestern cities were in the top 10, Tacoma's News Tribune reported Seattle took the 12th place spot and Portland was ranked 26th. According to the source, Tacoma and Olympia finished somewhere outside of the top 75. Because Seattle and Portland ranked relatively high on the list of dangerous cities for identity theft, it might be beneficial for consumers to consult with credit bureaus about the alerts and other preemptive theft-fighting tools available to them. According to PEMCO spokesman Jon Osterberg, there are a number of steps consumers can take to protect their credit, specifically noting the importance of ordering a free credit report once a year. He also suggests the report providers could help if they believe their identity has been stolen. Experian outlined the multiple tools that are offered to consumers to protect data. For example, the company offers Credit Monitoring on all three bureau reports and will notify the person if major information is altered and allow unlimited access to a personal credit report. There are also different types of alerts and freezes that can be placed on the reports of each bureau, as well as policies that could insure a holder in the event of money loss due to identity theft.