Northwest residents fear online crime but dismiss dumpster diving and mail theft



​SEATTLE – In this increasingly digital world, many Northwest residents worry about the threat of online identity theft, but according to the latest poll results from PEMCO Insurance, about three-quarters say they continue to bank online anyway. And while the poll shows that fewer are concerned with old-fashioned crooks like mail thieves and trash scavengers, experts warn they remain dangerous. 

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, a majority of Washington and Oregon residents (87 percent) share at least somewhat of a concern that their identity could be stolen, but 82 percent of them say they use online banking services anyway. Meanwhile, most (also 82 percent) say digital data breaches pose the biggest identity-theft threat – either from inherent online risks or because a retailer fails to protect sensitive information. 

Despite those concerns, about half of respondents (47 percent) say that online banking is more secure for paying bills than paying them through U.S. Mail, though nearly one-third (31 percent) admit they’re unsure which option is safer. About one-quarter (22 percent) of Washington and Oregon residents prefer snail mail for paying bills, according to the poll. 

“Many people share concern about all forms of identity theft, and the poll suggests that some view online and offline security threats differently based on their age,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. 

PEMCO’s poll shows 22 percent of people age 35 or older think it’s more secure to pay bills through U.S. Mail, compared to 17 percent of those under 35. 

In Washington, the distinction between generations is greater – 59 percent of those under 35 say it’s more secure to pay their bills online, while 47 percent of those 35 and older say the same. 

According to the poll, just 5 percent of all respondents worry that a thief could steal sensitive information from their mailbox, and even fewer fear crooks pilfering their trash or recycling. 

“That may explain why our poll shows fewer people than before say they use a home shredder,” Osterberg noted. 

About two-thirds of Washington residents (69 percent) report owning and using a shredder today, compared to 79 percent in 2008. Similarly, 68 percent of Oregon respondents currently own a shredder, compared with 77 percent of Portland residents in 2011. 

While the poll suggests only modest concern for low-tech theft, it’s in consumers’ best interest to remain vigilant for all forms of identity theft according to IDT911, PEMCO’s partner for identity fraud services. 

Matt Cullina, CEO for IDT911, said acts of identity theft are often opportunistic. 

“We see our fair share of low-tech, wallet-snatching type of crimes,” Cullina said. “A wallet can contain all of the perfect pieces to steal a person’s entire identity – driver’s license, insurance cards, credit and debit cards, maybe even a Social Security card.” 

While low-tech theft remains an easy target for some crooks, IDT911 warns that online crimes will increase as tech-savvy thieves find new ways to exploit technology’s weaknesses. Consumers should remain aware of phishing emails and other tactics – like phone or text solicitations – looking to dupe them. Not to mention old-fashioned pickpockets. 

“Identity theft doesn’t just pertain to financial fraud. Tax, medical, and even job identity theft are real and can wreak havoc on your finances, medical records or career,” Cullina added. “Consumers should also be on guard when giving personal information to small businesses and other entities, like universities and medical offices, because breaches at low-profile locations often don’t make national headlines, but are equally as dangerous.” 

To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit​, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in May 2014. 

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 600 in Oregon, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 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 the associated error range. 

About PEMCO Insurance 
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit J.D. Power has ranked PEMCO “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the Northwest Region, Two Years in a Row.” For J.D. Power award information, visit

About IDT911 
Founded in 2003, IDT911™ is the nation’s premier consultative provider of identity and data risk management, resolution and education services. The company serves 17.5 million households across the country and provides fraud solutions for a range of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, the country’s largest insurance companies, employee benefit providers, banks and credit unions and membership organizations. A subsidiary of IDT911, IDT911 Consulting™ provides information security and data privacy services to help businesses avert or respond to a data loss incident. Together, the companies provide preventative and breach response services to more than 600,000 businesses in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. IDT911 is the recipient of several awards, including the Stevie Award for Sales and Customer Service and the Phoenix Business Journal Tech Titan award for innovation in breach and fraud-fighting services. The company is the organizer of the Privacy XChange Forum, an annual conference that brings together high profile privacy thought leaders. For more information, please visit,, and