Poll: Northwest Residents Rely on Vigilance to Protect Identities

Most Northwest residents are concerned about the threat of identity theft, but a majority rely on their own vigilance to protect themselves from fraudulent activity against their personal information, a new poll shows.

Data from a poll sponsored by Seattle, Wash.-based PEMCO Insurance reveal that less than one-fifth of drivers in the Northwest — 18 percent in Oregon and 16 percent in Washington — say they subscribe to an identity-theft protection service.

The insurer said a majority in both states engage in other identity-protecting behaviors, such as installing security software like a firewall, using a shredder to destroy sensitive documents, registering with the “do not call” registry, and removing personal identification from wallets and purses.

PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg said “more than 80 percent of those surveyed in Washington and Oregon are at least somewhat concerned with having their identity stolen.” He added it’s interesting “that despite the risks, most consumers choose to take matters into their own hands to protect themselves.”

A nationwide study cited by Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna states that while the number of identity theft victims has decreased in recent years, identity fraud is costing consumers more out-of-pocket expenses. The mean out-of-pocket cost due to identity fraud increased 63 percent from $387 in 2009 to $631 per incident in 2010, according to the study.

In both Washington and Oregon, the most commonly reported form of identity theft is credit card fraud, according to government data.

According to the PEMCO poll, the most common security practice among respondents is upgrading computer software, with 86 percent of Oregonians and 87 percent of Washingtonians reporting that they’ve installed a security firewall or similar software.

A majority — 77 percent of Oregonians and 78 percent of Washingtonians — also make sure to destroy personal information with a shredder.

However, fewer respondents say they take actions like reducing debit card usage or installing a locking mailbox to deter identity thieves. Only about one-third from both states take those actions.

The poll was conducted by FBK Research of Seattle in April 2011 and July 2011.

Source: PEMCO Insurance