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Capital One - Consumer Action Survey on Identity Theft Finds Many Consumers Vulnerable and Misinformed

October 30, 2006 at 9:30 AM EST

Business Editors

MCLEAN, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 30, 2006--Ninety-three percent of Americans are well aware of the growing crime of identity theft. Yet despite free access to credit reports and numerous educational efforts, a new survey from leading financial services company Capital One (NYSE:COF) and national advocacy group Consumer Action finds that many consumers are still unaware of the financial damage that can result from the crime and the steps to take if they fall victim. The survey also suggests that older and younger generations are particularly vulnerable.

Among the survey's key findings:

  • Forty-four percent of consumers do not realize that their personal information can be used to obtain a mortgage and 32 percent do not know that thieves can obtain a drivers license or photo ID card with such information.
  • Forty-one percent of older Americans (70+) do not realize that identity thieves can obtain a drivers license or ID card with their information, while 54 percent of younger Americans are unaware of this risk.
  • Thirty-two percent of Americans are putting themselves at risk for identity theft simply by carrying their Social Security Cards in their wallets or purses and 45 percent of those polled incorrectly think that a new Social Security Number (SSN) should be obtained if you are a victim.

"Identity theft and fraud are crimes that we can't simply ignore. For victims, it can take a considerable amount of time and effort to clear up credit records and repair the financial damage caused by the crime," said Diana Don, director of financial education at Capital One. "There are danger signs that we look out for as a financial institution, but it's equally important that we help consumers minimize their risk by arming them with the right information."

Because of the financial harm that can result from identity theft, Capital One uses numerous security and assistance measures, such as regular account monitoring, to ensure customers' information is protected. In addition to those efforts, Capital One and Consumer Action, through their national MoneyWi$e financial literacy partnership, have developed a free, multilingual consumer guide called ID Theft/Account Fraud Prevention and Clean Up, available at

"The MoneyWi$e guide on ID Theft/Account Fraud Prevention and Clean Up offers practical guidance on the simple steps you can take to help prevent identity theft, or, if you are a victim, to clear up the problems created by the crime and lessen its impact on your life," said Ken McEldowney, executive director of Consumer Action.

Despite educational efforts, many consumers are still uninformed about the crime.

Despite numerous educational efforts from the government, consumer groups and the financial industry, the Capital One-Consumer Action survey finds that consumers still do not realize the financial harm that can result from identity theft. For example, 15 percent do not realize that their personal information can be used to open lines of credit for products such as credit cards, while 24 percent do not know that identity thieves can use their information to apply for a job. Consumers were equally unaware of the steps they should take if they are victims of identity theft. Forty-five percent of Americans report that a new SSN should be obtained while 35 percent report that a new SSN is not necessary. The remaining 20 percent were unsure.

According to the MoneyWi$e guide on ID Theft Prevention and Clean Up, a variety of personal information can be used to commit ID theft and account fraud, including a person's name, SSN, birth date, mother's maiden name, credit report, driver's license, and credit card and bank account numbers. Although many victims of identity theft believe a new SSN will solve their problems, this is usually not possible since credit reporting bureaus may combine the records of your old and new SSN. The Capital One-Consumer Action guide suggests several core steps to help consumers' spot potential signs of ID theft and account fraud:

  • Check your credit report. You can get one free copy of your credit report annually from the three national credit reporting bureaus. Go to the official Annual Credit Report site ( to get your free reports. Review your reports for accounts you don't recognize or information from companies you don't do business with.
  • Monitor your mail for missed bills, credit card statements and other mail. A missing bill might mean that a crook has taken over your account and changed your billing address.
  • Investigate mysterious purchases, charges, bills or collection calls immediately. If you receive a credit card that you didn't apply for or find a charge on your credit card bill that you don't recognize, call the companies immediately to address the problem.
  • Question credit offers. If you know you have good credit but your application for a new credit card is denied, it could be a sign of ID theft. When you are denied credit, you can get a free copy of your credit report from the credit bureau used by the lender. Some generations appear more vulnerable to crime.

    Surprisingly, the Capital One-Consumer Action survey on identity theft finds the youngest and oldest generations most vulnerable to the crime. Both generations tend to carry their Social Security Cards (43 percent of 70+ Americans do this while 44 percent of younger Americans ages 18-19 do), putting them at increased risk for the crime. The survey also suggests that older Americans may not realize the negative financial impact that can result from the crime - fifty-five percent do not realize that identity thieves can use stolen information to buy a home/obtain a mortgage.

    Equally troubling is fact that younger Americans, ages 18-19, are misinformed about ID theft, considering that the crime may disrupt future attempts to obtain car loans, mortgages or apply for jobs. Fifty-two percent of this age group do not realize that their personal information can be used to rent an apartment and 75 percent do not realize it can be used to buy a home/obtain a mortgage.

    MoneyWi$e program arms consumers with financial tools and information.

    Education is the key to a healthy financial future. To help consumers protect against identity theft and improve their knowledge on other financial topics, Capital One and Consumer Action created the MoneyWi$e financial education program. MoneyWi$e combines free, multilingual financial education materials on a variety of financial topics with community training and seminars to give consumers at all income levels the information and the practical assistance they need to make smart financial choices. Consumers can obtain free brochures by visiting

    Survey Methodology

    For the joint Capital One-Consumer Action study, Braun Research was engaged to conduct 1003 interviews with adults age 18 years of age or older across the United States. Surveys were conducted by telephone from August 29th through August 31st, 2006. The margin of error for the research project is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Interviews were monitored and verified at random. Sampling for this study was conducted using a national probability sample of all exchanges and area codes known in the continental United States. All interviews were conducted using a computer assisted telephone interviewing system. Statistical weights were designed from United States Census Bureau statistics.

    About Capital One

    Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One Financial Corporation ( is a financial holding company, with more than 342 locations in Texas and Louisiana. Its principal subsidiaries, Capital One Bank, Capital One, F.S.B., Capital One Auto Finance, Inc., and Capital One, N.A., offer a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. Capital One's subsidiaries collectively had $48.2 billion in deposits and $112.2 billion in managed loans outstanding as of September 30, 2006. Capital One, a Fortune 500 company, trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COF" and is included in the S&P 500 index.

    About Consumer Action

    Consumer Action is a national non-profit education and advocacy organization founded in San Francisco in 1971. Consumer Action serves consumers nationwide by advancing consumer rights, referring consumers to complaint-handling agencies and publishing multilingual educational materials. Consumer Action also advocates for consumers in the media and before lawmakers and annually conducts comparison surveys for consumers on credit cards, banking issues and telecommunications issues.

    CONTACT: Capital One Financial Corporation
    Diana Don, 703-720-2371

    SOURCE: Capital One Financial Corporation