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PEMCO Poll: Younger residents are more vulnerable to identity theft

May 11, 2011

SEATTLE A new poll from PEMCO Insurance reveals that young people, despite a common perception of their technological acumen, leave themselves more vulnerable to the threat of identity theft than their older counterparts.

Seniors, on the other hand, are more thoughtful about taking steps to secure their personal identities, according to the PEMCO poll. Among their identity-protecting behaviors is a likelihood to install security software on their personal computers, regularly use a shredder, retain financial records, or register with the national “do not call” registry. 

The poll shows 84 percent of those 55 and older say they’ve registered with the privacy-protecting “do not call” service offered by the U.S. government, while a third less – only 55 percent – of those age 35 and younger say they’ve opted to join the registry.

Similarly, 88 percent of older residents have installed a firewall or spyware on their personal computers while 78 percent of young people report the same behavior. And, 86 percent of the older generation say they regularly use a shredder to destroy sensitive documents compared to 74 percent of younger residents. 

“It’s encouraging to see that most people are vigilant about protecting their personal information from fraud,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. “Still, we think there’s more that residents, and especially younger people, can do to keep their information safe.”

According to the State Office of the Attorney General, Washington ranks 17th for the number of identity-theft complaints reported per capita, compared to other states in the U.S.  Washington has improved its standing since 2005 when the state reported the 7th-highest number of complaints per capita nationwide.

PEMCO has tracked behaviors around identity-theft protection since 2008 and finds that the area of greatest identity-protection improvement is in residents’ willingness to remove personal identification or sensitive documents from their wallets.  Nearly half of all respondents have deliberately removed information from their wallets, which is up from 39 percent in 2008.  

But this latest poll also reveals that all residents can do more to reduce the threat of ID theft from stolen mail. Only about one-third of Washington residents have taken steps to lock their mailbox or opt out of direct mail, according to the poll.

“If you don’t have a locking mailbox, at the very least people should consider taking outgoing mail to a secure collection box or post office,” Osterberg said. “And, it’s just as important to shred unwanted junk mail, especially credit card offers and applications that may contain enough personal information for thieves to exploit.” 

The poll also found that women and those with higher incomes are more likely to take steps to protect their identities by using a shredder and by registering with the “do not call” list.  Higher-income households also tend to install a locking mailbox and opt out of receiving direct mail, according to the poll.

To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit www.pemco.com/poll, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll to see how their own responses compare to those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in November 2010.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 826 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 3.5  percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 3.5 percent.

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.

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