Tips for Fighting Non-Digital Identity Theft

David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services including fraud deterrence, business valuation, and fraud investigation in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.

When most people hear the words “Identity Theft,” they think about spam and/or phishing e-mails, malware and computer viruses, or suspicious websites as the source of the identity theft.

Yet, according to David Anderson, of David Anderson & Associates – a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud deterrence and other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley –53 percent of all identity theft (according to the Center for Identity at the University of Texas at Austin) either doesn’t involve or didn’t start with any of these on-line exploits; instead they involve non-digital means of exploitation.

Non-digital identity theft includes such actions as:

  • Theft of Delivered Packages and U. S. Mail
  • “Dumpster Diving”
  • Theft of Laptops and Smartphones
  • Insider Theft by Family Members, Fellow Employees and/or Visitors

Anderson offers a closer look at each of these actions:

Theft of Delivered Packages and U. S. Mail: This is perhaps the simplest and easiest way for identity thieves to obtain your personal information.  Identity thieves look for and steal packages and U. S. Mail that is not secured – for example, left on a front doorstep, in an unlocked mailbox or, for some apartment buildings or condominiums, on a shelf or table in the mailroom.  Using the information contained in or on the packages or mail, the identity thieves go to work changing delivery addresses, opening new credit cards, etc.  In many cases, the identity thieves use the information from the stolen packages and mail to deliver a change of address card to the U. S. Post Office redirecting your mail to themselves.

Anderson said individuals can fight such theft by opening a post office box at either the local post office or a third-party mail service and have mail delivered there; by having packages delivered to either your office (if your employer permits it) or to a neighbor who is always home.  Additionally, if you live in a building with a front desk, you can ask the front desk to hold packages for you.

“Dumpster Diving:” Identity thieves go through your garbage seeking credit card statements, tax returns and other documents that you or your business have thrown out.  Then, as with stolen packages and U. S. mail, the identity thieves change delivery addresses, open new credit cards, etc.

Individuals should, Anderson suggests, shred all documents containing sensitive information. Many communities have annual or semi-annual shredding days.  Additionally, places like Staples and Office Depot (for a fee) will shred documents for you.  Some people go so far as to remove address information from discarded magazines and junk mail to thwart identity thieves.

Theft of Laptops and Smartphones: Under this scenario, thieves steal laptops, smartphones and other portable devices (such as tablets, iPads, smart watches, etc.).  If the device is not password protected, thieves have ready access to its applications (especially those for which the user ID and password have been saved on a website – such as for your bank account(s) or credit card account(s)).  Additionally, identity thieves have access to texts, e-mails and address books – treasure troves of personal information.  Thieves can also use text, e-mail, and address book information to launch digital identity theft attacks on your friends, family and business associates.

Identity thieves can be thwarted by using password-protected devices.  You should also consider not saving user IDs and passwords for websites.  Additionally, you should consider using locking cables for laptops and tablets to prevent their removal from the premises.  Also, to the extent that you must leave such devices in your car, you should lock them in the trunk instead of leaving them visible to passersby.

Insider Theft by Family Members, Fellow Employees and/or Visitors: Sometimes identity thieves operate right under your nose.  For example, your children, relatives, friends or other visitors to your home (think delivery people, home services people, etc.) may have access to mail or other documents left out in the open.  Furthermore, if you leave home computers or other devices on and logged in, they may have access to all the information on those devices.

Similar problems arise at work.  People often leave their computers logged in while away from their desks for meetings, lunch, etc.  Other employees and/or visitors can easily access information on those computers (and, many people also store personal information on their work computers).  Anderson said he often has observed such unattended logged in computers in the accounting departments of clients he was visiting.  Additionally, people often leave sensitive documents in the open when away from their desks at work.

Avoid leaving sensitive documents lying around at both home and work.  Children and other family members who use family computers should be provided with separate profiles and log-ins to prevent access to sensitive data and applications on shared computers.  Additionally, timed logouts should be set up on all home and work computers to prevent their staying on when the user is away.  Sensitive documents should also be stored in locked filing cabinets.

As can be seen from the above discussion, you not only have to be alert for digital attacks by identity thieves, by also for non-digital attacks. Working with an experienced firm that provides forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley can help you prevent such nefarious activities.

If you require the services of a forensic accounting expert in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at

About David Anderson & Associates

David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.  The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide fraud deterrence, fraud investigation, forensic accounting, business valuation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting, and outsourced CFO services. Company principal David Anderson is a forensic accounting expert in Philadelphia who has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Valuation Analyst and a Certified Fraud Examiner in Philadelphia.